Restricted Members
  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


beaker1 last won the day on February 8 2017

beaker1 had the most liked content!

About beaker1

  • Rank
    Newbie Punter
  • Birthday 05/18/66
  1. Racing Chat - Thursday Jan 25th

    3.00 Gowran Park – Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase – Thursday 25th January This valuable handicap chase has been won in recent years by the likes of Djakadam, On His Own and Champagne West. The strongest trend concerns a horse’s official handicap rating and the ceiling appears to be set at 145, with only one winner in the last ten years having won off a higher mark. The horse in question was the most recent winner Champagne West, who won off 154 twelve months ago, but even so, it seems best to focus on those below this mark. A cause for concern for supporters of Champagne West, A Genie In Abottle, Ucello Conti and Pleasant Company. Another strong trend is that all but two of the last ten winners were aged between eight and ten. In fact, there have only been six winners from outside this bracket since 1988, which doesn’t bode well for the quartet of seven-year-olds (A Genie In Abottle, Monbeg Notorious, Call The Taxie and Woods Well) as well as the eleven-year-old Isleofhopendreams. As well as experience, in such a big field, it is important that a horse’s jumping is up to scratch and this is backed up by the fact that all of the last ten winners had fallen or unseated no more than twice in their chasing careers. The only member of the field with question marks over their jumping this time around is Thunder And Roses. Stamina is also an important factor to take into account when searching for the winner of this particular race. Seven of the last ten winners had winning form over 3m or further and with the ground likely to be heavy on Thursday, I wouldn’t want to be taking any chances on a horse’s stamina. There are seven horses without proven form over 3m, namely Ucello Conti, Flaxen Flare, Isleofhopendreams, Call The Taxie, Woods Well, Fine Theatre and Space Cadet. In terms of form, normally in these big handicaps, it pays to side with horses arriving on the back of a victory or placed effort but the evidence here suggests we should be thinking outside the box. Seven of the last ten winners had finished outside of the first three on their most recent outing, five of which had failed to complete. Weight can also be an important consideration in these competitive handicaps and the trends suggest that 11st is the ceiling, as only four of the last ten winners had won carrying a bigger burden. It is worth bearing in mind that three of those four exceptions came in the last four years so perhaps the pattern is shifting but on the whole, I would prefer to focus on those with a lower weight. The final factor to consider is the betting and it is fair to say that favourites have had a pretty torrid time in recent years. We have to go back to 2006 to find the last winning favourite and in that time we have had winners priced at 16/1, 20/1 and 25/1 so we shouldn’t be afraid to take a chance on one at a big price. Shortlist WOUNDED WARRIOR – 7/7 Out Sam – 6/7 Pleasant Company – 6/7 Conclusion Taking everything into account, we have just one horse who matches all seven of our trends and that is WOUNDED WARRIOR. Noel Meade’s nine-year-old has been struggling for form of late but he was sixth in this race twelve months ago off a 14lb higher mark. He travelled well for a long way on that occasion before his big weight (11st 5lb) took its toll in the closing stages. He needs to improve on what he has shown recently but he is likely to appreciate the refitting of cheekpieces which he wore last year and I think he can run better than his sizeable odds suggest. Just missing out on the top spot is Out Sam, who is one of six runners in the race for Gordon Elliott. The nine-year-old was previously trained in Britain by Warren Greatrex and Nicky Henderson but seemed to lose his way and needs a change of scenery to reignite his enthusiasm for the game. He is entitled to come on for his first outing for his new yard over Christmas and with crack 3lb conditional James Bowen coming over to take the ride, he looks to have plenty going in his favour. The shortlist is completed by Pleasant Company who was fourth in the race twelve months ago. That was the ten-year-old’s first start for nearly a year and having won a Grade 3 chase next time, it is hard to argue that he didn’t improve for his first run of the season. He races here off a mark of 146 which is just above the 145 ceiling but he has a run under his belt this time around and it would be no surprise to see him go close once again this year.
  2. MY Ante post Diary

    MY Ante post Diary Part 4Champion HurdleSaturday’s International Hurdle provided one of the most thrilling finishes of the season, with the veteran My Tent Or Yours taking advantage of his 6lb weight allowance to get the better of The New One and the young pretender Melon. There was nothing between the trio at the final flight but it might have been the weight advantage that told in the closing stages with the ten-year-old pulling clear on the run to the line to win by one and a quarter lengths. What it told us with regards to the Champion Hurdle is less clear, although having finished second in three of the last four renewals, it would be unfair to rule the Tent out of running into the frame once again this year.Nigel Twiston-Davies bemoaned the fact that his horse had to concede weight to a horse of My Tent Or Yours’ quality. The New One had already won this race three times and lost nothing in defeat and aside from the complaints about the race conditions, I was more interested to hear his trainer raise the possibility of the nine-year-old stepping up in trip come March. That decision is largely dependant on whether Faugheen turns up in March but having come up short in the 2m division at the very top level, he would be an interesting contender were he to step up to 3m.Melon was sent off favourite for the race but not for the first time he was keen throughout and probably just failed to finish his race off as a result. It is still early days with Willie Mullins’ five-year-old and in a more strongly run race, he could be seen to better effect.Away from Cheltenham, it was interesting to see Faugheen drift in the Champion Hurdle market on Betfair on Monday. This could well be paranoia following the news about Douvan on Sunday but there was plenty of money around for his main market rival Buveur D’Air, who is now as short as 2/1 with some firms. Nicky Henderson’s charge is likely to run in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton next week although plans for the current market leader are less clear, albeit it seems that he will be staying in his native Ireland for Christmas.Champion ChaseWell we got just about the worst possible news for our ante-post portfolio on Sunday as Willie Mullins revealed that Douvan will miss the rest of the season. Having missed his intended engagement in the Tingle Creek a couple of weeks ago, it is understood that the horses has been intermittently lame since then and connections have decided to pull stumps with the horses and allow him to recover in his own time. The seven-year-old is still young enough to come back but it is pretty frustrating considering how positive the bulletins were about him about four weeks ago.On the back of this news, his stablemate Min who is also owned by Rich Ricci, was cut into around 3/1 second favourite behind Altior. I raised the possibility of Min stepping up in trip come March but now that Douvan is out of the reckoning, I would imagine that he will be directed to the Champion Chase and campaigned accordingly in the coming weeks.As far as the race is concerned, I would imagine we will have a look at the market in the next few weeks and see if there is the potential for another bet in the race.Stayers HurdleI mentioned a few weeks ago that Apple’s Jade would be of interest, were she to go down the 3m route and although her owners insist that the Mares’ Hurdle remains her main target at the Festival, it seems she is going to step up in trip over Christmas as she tackles the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. I would imagine the only way that her owners would change their mind is if they thought there wasn’t much depth to the stayer’s division and at the moment, it seems to be waiting for someone to put their name forward as the top dog.There is every chance that Saturday’s Long Walk Hurdle will offer some clues with last year’s first and second Unowhatimeanharry and Lil Rockerfeller set to re-oppose. Both of those horse also filled the places in the Stayers’ Hurdle in March but there are several younger horses who have the potential to be smart stayers come the spring.Sam Spinner and Thomas Campbell have both enjoyed success in handicap company this term and will now have to prove their worth at Graded level. Both are relatively unexposed at this distance and at the age of five, there is every chance that we haven’t seen the best of them yet. The Worlds End is similarly unexposed but Tom George’s six-year-old will have to improve on his run behind Sam Spinner last month. Ground conditions are likely to be more suitable for him here and we should get a better idea about his Stayers Hurdle claims.However, the one that interests me most with the Stayers Hurdle in mind is L’Ami Serge who has been called plenty of names in the past, but there is no question that he has improved since being stepped up in trip. He won the French Champion Hurdle over 3m in June and was far from disgraced when second to Lil Rockerfeller in the Ascot Hurdle on his reappearance. He was actually conceding 6lb to Neil King’s horse that day but he meets that rival on more favourable terms and I think there is every chance he can turn the tables. Nicky Henderson’s horses have tended to be improving for their first runs of the season and everything seems to be pointing towards a bold showing from the seven-year-old on Saturday.Gold CupThe next week or so is likely to make the Gold Cup picture much clearer with the King George and the race formerly known as the Lexus Chase both likely to attract top-class Grade 1 fields. In terms of the former, it seems more than likely that Gigginstown’s representative will be Disko. Noel Meade’s six-year-old made a winning reappearance at Down Royal in November and having improved for the step up to 3m in the spring, he looks an interesting contender. He jumps well out in front and although this year’s King George looks as strong a renewal as I can remember, it would not surprise me to see Noel Meade’s gelding stake his claims for a Gold Cup challenge.Novice ChasersArkleAlan King has indicated that his Henry VIII winner Sceau Royal is likely to have his next run in the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster before heading to the Cheltenham Festival. The five-year-old has shown a dislike for slow ground in the past and it seems that his campaign will largely be dictated by the ground conditions. The race at Doncaster will also give his trainer a chance to give him a short break before building him up again for March and at this stage at least, the Arkle looks his most likely option.Another potential Arkle contender Petit Mouchoir is reportedly on the mend according to his owner Eddie O’Leary. He said on Monday He added: “Petit Mouchoir is fine. He suffered a small fracture after winning at Punchestown but we put a pin in it and he’s back cantering well. Hopefully we’ll have him right for the Irish Arkle in February.” I was very impressed with the way he jumped on his chasing debut but there isn’t much to be gained from jumping in until we have seen he is back in full working order.Novice HurdlersSupremeSkyBet took the step of going No Runner No Bet (NRNB) on the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle this week, meaning we have a little insurance when it comes to this market. Obviously the downside is that most of the prices have been slashed but it gives us an interesting option nonetheless.This Friday’s Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle is shaping up as though it could prove a useful guide to some of the contenders on this side of the Irish Sea at least. The form of Nicky Henderson’s Claimantakinforgan’s victory has been franked with the runner-up winning next time and having been a high-class bumper horse, there is every chance that he can develop into a top-class novice hurdler. If The Cap Fits finished just in front of Claimantakinforgan in the Aintree Bumper and having won his first two novice hurdles, he looks ready for a step up in class. There are several other possibles at this stage including Slate House who won a Grade 2 at Cheltenham last month. The runner-up couldn’t back that form up at Cheltenham last week but I felt he was worth more than the winning margin that day and despite carrying a penalty, he would have a leading chance if lining up here.Albert BartlettWillie Mullins won the Albert Bartlett for the first time last season with Penhill and his Next Destination went to the head of the market for this season’s renewal following a taking victory in the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle. The five-year-old picked up strongly between the final two flights before racing clear to beat the useful Cracking Smart by five and a half lengths. Despite finishing fourth in the Champion Bumper last Spring, the fact that he won an Irish point suggests that the step up to 3m shouldn’t be beyond him, especially on better ground in the spring. His jockey David Mullins mentioned how impressed he had been with how much he found once shaken up and often that is the sign of a horse who would relish a stronger test of stamina as they are able to switch off before picking at the required time.However, there was another winner at Navan on Sunday who could end up in the Albert Bartlett by the end of the season and that is Blow By Blow. The six-year-old was the talk of many people last term but missed the whole campaign. Formerly trained in bumpers by Willie Mullins before the Gigginstown split, it has taken him three goes to get off the mark but the step up to 2m7f really seemed to bring out the best in him on Sunday. He doesn’t do a lot in front but with connections now starting to learn how he likes to be ridden, he could be the sort of horse who enjoys the extreme test that the Albert Bartlett provides.TriumphNicky Henderson has won the Triumph Hurdle a record six times and he currently has two of the first four in the betting at his disposal for this year. The ante-post favourite Apple’s Shakira made it two from two in Britain on Saturday, getting the better of a small field to win in handsome fashion at Cheltenham. Her trainer mentioned that she has been a lot more lively in her home work since her first run for the yard and in fact she travelled keenly for much of the way here in the hands of Barry Geraghty. What impresses me most is how quick she is over her hurdles and this full-sister to Apple’s Jade looks the one to beat come March at the moment, for all that better ground is a question that she still has to answer.Henderson also won the Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster for the second time in four years as We Have A Dream saw off some useful rivals to stake his claim for Cheltenham glory. Daryl Jacob decided to keep things simple on him and made all as he had done on his British debut at Warwick the previous month. The racing manager for the owners, Anthony Bromley issued a word of caution re Cheltenham, suggesting that ‘The Triumph is not the be all and end all’ but I would imagine it will largely on how he continues to improve throughout the season as to where he ends up.Personally, I think it is a little early to be considering horses for the Triumph as there will be any number of juveniles coming out from the woodwork in the coming weeks. However, it was hard not to be impressed with the performance of Stormy Ireland, who made a winning debut for Willie Mullins on Saturday. The form of the race may not have been up to much but the filly put quite a lot of distance between herself and her rivals in the second half of the race, winning by fifty-eight lengths at the line. Clearly tougher tests in the weeks and months ahead will tell us more about her ability, but she is in good hands and could be one to keep an eye out for.BetsL’AMI SERGE (Stayers Hurdle) – 1pt e/w @ 16/1 (William Hill, Paddy Power)Just the one bet for us this week and as I mentioned in the copy above, I think that L’Ami Serge can prove his worth in the staying hurdle division at Ascot on Saturday. The division as a whole is waiting for a standout performer and having handled all types of ground including good spring ground, it seems that this horse could now show his best when stepped back up to 3m. He won the Grade 1 French Champion Hurdle on his only previous try at 3m+ and having run so well at Ascot in November on his return, he looks primed for a big effort at the weekend. With March in mind, it is worth remembering that he has finished in the first four at the last three Festivals, so he clearly handles it around there and I think 3m could be his trip. He is currently available at 16/1 with a couple of firms and with the prospect of him being shortened at the weekend, I think this is the time to back him for the Stayers’ Hurdle.Ante-Post DiaryDOUVAN (Queen Mother Champion Chase) – 2pts win @ 3/1 (SkyBet, Ladbrokes, Coral) (unlikely runner)THISTLECRACK (Gold Cup) – 2pts win @ 6/1 (Betfair Sportsbook)DEFI DU SEUIL (Champion Hurdle) – 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral)L’AMI SERGE (Stayers Hurdle) – 1pt e/w @ 16/1 (William Hill, Paddy Power)Read more:
  3. MY Ante post Diary

    MY Ante post Diary Part 3 Champion Hurdle Not much to report in this sphere this week other than that we might get some Champion Hurdle clues in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday. The race was re-opened on Monday due to insufficient entries but following the entry deadline on Tuesday, there were 7 entries. I would imagine that The New One will be popular in the market as he bids to win the race for a fourth time but in terms of the Champion Hurdle, it will be interesting to see how Melon gets on should he line-up. This will be a good test of Willie Mullins’ five-year-old against some solid campaigners including the likes of The New One and My Tent Or Yours, with the last-mentioned also receiving 6lb from his younger rival. Champion Chase Well where do we start with the Douvan Tingle Creek saga? Whatever your opinion on the matter, one thing that seems to be consistent is that his trainer wasn’t entirely happy with the seven-year-old following a piece of work in the middle of last week. According to connections, there is no suggestion of an injury but having worked at the Curragh on Tuesday, they felt that gallop may have taken too much out of him. He was also entered in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork and John Durkan at Punchestown at the weekend but missed those engagements, with his seasonal reappearance now likely to come over Christmas. In his absence at Sandown, Paul Nicholls’ Politologue put up a fine performance to record a first Grade 1 success in the Tingle Creek. The free-going six-year-old jumped very well under Harry Cobden but what was most pleasing was how much he found when challenged by Fox Norton in the closing stages. He looks a real two-miler and although I think he would need to improve to figure in a Champion Chase, given his age, further improvement can’t be ruled out. As for the runner-up Fox Norton he was a little slow over the first and was always playing catch up after that. Connections have been weighing up stepping him back up in trip following his win over 2m4f at Aintree in April and following this defeat, he now looks as though he finds 2m on the sharp side. He could step up in trip for the King George but come the Festival, I would imagine the Ryanair would be his most likely target. Another who is more likely to line-up in the Ryanair is last year’s winner Un De Sceaux who made a winning return to action at Cork on Sunday. Willie Mullins’ nine-year-old was imperious in testing conditions and showed just how good he can be when the ground is in his favour. As we have seen in the last couple of seasons, the Spring ground probably makes 2m a little sharp for him but I imagine he will go where the ground suits this winter before heading back to the Ryanair come the Festival. Gold Cup Last season’s Gold Cup winner Sizing John was clipped into as short as 7/2 for March’s showpiece following a fine performance at Punchestown on Sunday. Jessica Harrington’s seven-year-old missed the Betfair Chase on account of the ground a couple of weeks ago but apart from making a mistake at the third fence, he turned in a fine effort to see off Djakadam, who had won the last two renewals of this race. There is no doubt that this was a fine performance but I would say that connections of the runner-up believed he would come on for the run, so perhaps the form isn’t as strong as it first appears. His trainer confessed that she was concerned about the three hard races he had last spring leaving their mark but I guess it will be a case of only time will tell on that. I wasn’t surprised that he was trimmed in the betting on the back of this victory but I have to say I think he is short enough at the current odds. Those looking forward to the return of Yorkhill were buoyed by some news of the seven-year-old who seems to be set to make his return to action at Leopardstown over Christmas. The race which was the Lexus Chase seems to be the preferred option as connections are keen to keep him to left-handed tracks following his wayward display at Fairyhouse in the spring. That suggests that the Gold Cup seems his most likely option come the Spring but obviously a lot will depend on how he performs. As for our selection Thistlecrack, Joe Tizzard confirmed on Monday that it was all systems go for the King George and that they had been happy with him since Newbury. Speaking at a 32Red Winter Festival preview, Tizzard said: “Thistlecrack is good. He has come out of his run at Newbury really well and has never missed a day, which was always going to be the most important thing. He did his usual routine that Saturday and was back galloping on the Monday morning. We think it was just down to lack of fitness, it’s as simple as that. Although I put my neck on the line and said he was fit, I don’t think he was. He looked the part and jumped like he can. Just from the back of three out he got tired. He certainly looks a lot tighter now. I wouldn’t say he’s improved as he has never been a massively flamboyant horse at home, but I am sure he is fitter and he has always been a big, gross horse that has taken a bit of work. We are confident you will see a fitter horse at Kempton.” Novice Chasers Arkle There were plenty of reputations on the line in Saturday’s Henry VIII Chase and although it is harsh to say any bubbles were burst, there was something of a surprise as Sceau Royal landed the spoils under Daryl Jacob. We know from his hurdling days that he is a strong traveller and he was always going well here, cruising to the front on the run to the last. He jumped that well and raced clear on the run-in to win by eleven lengths and in doing so, put himself right in the Arkle picture. His trainer said afterwards that he felt that fences had improved him and he is now available at around 8/1 for the Arkle. His victory also poses an interesting question for the market leader Footpad as Willie Mullins’ charge is in the same ownership as Saturday’s winner. Of course they could run both in the same race but having raced Footpad over further than 2m over hurdles, I wonder whether they will be tempted to keep the pair apart and go down the JLT route with Footpad. Of the beaten horses, North Hill Harvey had beaten Sceau Royal at Cheltenham in October but Alan King’s charge was 5lb better off this time and Dan Skelton’s horse seemed to be beaten fair and square. Brain Power would have probably finished second but for unseating at the final fence having been two lengths down on the winner at that obstacle. He jumped well on the whole and I would imagine he would prefer to be more patiently ridden so I wouldn’t write him off just yet. One thing we can be pretty certain of is that this is probably the last time we see Finian’s Oscar racing over two miles. Colin Tizzard’s five-year-old was slow at the first and was always on the back foot after that. His jumping went to pieces down the back and I suspect that they were just going half a stride quick for him throughout. He still remains an exciting chasing prospect and the JLT for which he is towards the head of the market, looks his most likely option at this stage of the season. RSA Willie Mullins’ Invitation Only put down a marker in the staying novices division with an impressive victory in a beginners’ chase at Navan on Saturday. The six-year-old had fallen on his chasing debut at Punchestown in November but he was very good over his obstacles here, particularly in the closing stages of the race. They got racing a fair way out here and it would have been easy for a novice to get distracted by those around him, but he showed no sign of getting distracted here. He saw out the 2m4f well in the end and with the possibility of going up to 3m before long, he looks a potential RSA horse. He is a general 16/1 shot for that race with the bookies although he is available at 20/1. Novice Hurdlers Ballymore Samcro remains the market leader for this particular contest and we could get another chance to see Gordon Elliott’s five-year-old at the weekend as he has an entry at Navan on Sunday. It is the same race that Elliott won with No More Heroes and Death Duty so it is clearly one that he likes to target. Willie Mullins also has Next Destination entered in the same race and with him currently third favourite for the Ballymore, it could be a good early-season indicator as to just how good Gordon Elliott’s horse is. On this side of the Irish sea, On The Blind Side looks a likely contender for this race and extending his unbeaten record under rules to three with a taking performance at Sandown on Friday. The five-year-old looked to need every yard of 2m5f at Cheltenham in November but although this race turned into a sprint, he travelled much better here under Nico De Boinville. He could be that he is still very green and that he is learning with his racing but the temptation to step him up to 3m is likely to be there for much of the season. His trainer mentioned the Challow Hurdle as a potential target and although that may come too soon for him, he should be able to pick up another nice prize before the Festival. At this early stage of the season, he looks one of the better novices around at this distance and he should continue to improve as the campaign goes on. Willie Mullins has won this race twice in the last four years and as well as Next Destination (mentioned above), he also unleashed a horse of big potential in the shape of Getabird who made a winning start to his hurdling career at Punchestown on Sunday. The five-year-old was favourite for the Champion Bumper last spring before picking up an injury but all seemed to be well with him here as he ran out a ready winner. In testing conditions, he jumped well on the whole but he impressed with how well he travelled before forging clear of his rivals in the closing stages. More difficult tasks will await but he is between 12/1 and 20/1 for the first race on day two of the meeting. Bets The picture still seems unclear in most of the races so I am going to keep my powder dry this week. I think the next couple of weeks should be very informative and it could be worth waiting for further clues before jumping in. Ante-Post Portfolio DOUVAN (Queen Mother Champion Chase) – 2pts win @ 3/1 (SkyBet, Ladbrokes, Coral) THISTLECRACK (Gold Cup) – 2pts win @ 6/1 (Betfair Sportsbook) DEFI DU SEUIL (Champion Hurdle) – 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral)
  4. Racing Chat - Friday Dec 8th

    RED RIVER bids to follow up his Wincanton success with victory in the Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown (2.30).I have had a bit of luck in this race in the past, with Messire Des Obeaux having landed the prize twelve months ago and my fancy in this year’s race looks worth his place in the field. Kim Bailey’s four-year-old ran out a ready winner on his debut just over a month ago and although the form hasn’t worked out as well as I would have liked, he was much the best on the day, winning with thirteen lengths to spare. He was doing his best work in the closing stages of the race at Wincanton last time so he should have no trouble handling the stiff finish at Sandown and although it looks a strong field, he looks worth his place in the line-up. Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side already has a Grade 2 success to his name and the form of his Cheltenham win looks just about the strongest on offer. However there are any number of horses with chances including Marley Firth, Mulcahys Hill and White Moon who are unbeaten over hurdles, with the last named probably holding the strongest claims having followed up his Wincanton success at Exeter last time. In summary, I think our horse is worth his place in the line-up and the way he drew clear of his rivals last time indicates to me that he should be able to hold his own in this higher grade. The yard are in excellent form at present and although he does need to step forward to figure here, I think he has plenty of potential, so is worth an each-way bet. Advice RED RIVER – 1pt e/w @ 7/1 (Paddy Power)
  5. MY Ante post Diary

    MY Ante post Diary Part 2 Champion Hurdle Following Faugheen’s successful return to action a couple of weeks ago, all eyes were on Buveur D’Air at Newcastle on Saturday and Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old didn’t disappoint as he ran out a ready winner of the Fighting Fifth. In truth, it wasn’t a vintage renewal of the race but he travelled smoothly throughout under Barry Geraghty before stretching clear of his rivals in the closing stages. For all that the opposition may not have been up to much, you have to be impressed with the performance of the winner, particularly how quick and nimble he is over his hurdles. Barry Geraghty said on Sunday that he felt Buveur D’Air had filled into himself over the summer and he could potentially be a better horse this term. Ultimately, only time will tell whether he can get beat Faugheen but that clash could come sooner than we thought, with the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day likely to be Buveur D’Air’s next port of call. The race was won in 2014 and 2015 by Faugheen and although plans are yet to be confirmed for Willie Mullins’ nine-year-old there would have to be a strong chance that the pair could clash at Christmas. Over in Ireland, Apple’s Jade put up what was arguably a career-best performance to win the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle on Sunday. Gordon Elliott’s mare was brilliant in beating off Nichols Canyon by nine lengths and although the Mares’ Hurdle remains her number one target at the Festival according to her owner, the temptation to run her in the Champion or the Stayers’ Hurdle is likely to increase as the season goes on. Champion Chase Not much to report on in this division this week but both Douvan and Un De Sceaux remain on course to make their seasonal reappearances this weekend according to Willie Mullins. The former is set to tackle the Tingle Creek at Sandown on Saturday, with the latter waiting until the following day to run in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork. In terms of Saturday’s race, there were 11 entries confirmed when the Tingle Creek closed on Monday. Ar Mad, Fox Norton, Politologue and Special Tiara look the most likely dangers to Willie Mullins’ runner, who also left in Un De Sceaux at the five-day stage. Willie Mullins also spoke of Min on Sunday who he was reluctant to commit to either a 2m or 2m4f campaign this term. It is still the early part of the season so there is no need to make a firm decision at this stage but he did suggest that himself and Douvan will be kept apart where possible. That raises the possibility of one stepping up in trip come March but as I suggested last week, I would suggest that Min is more likely to run in the Ryanair than his older stablemate. Stayers’ Hurdle Beer Goggles put himself forward as a possible Stayers’ Hurdle contender with a game victory in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday. Richard Woollacott’s six-year-old has improved no end since joining the yard last December and having started on a mark of 115, he now finds himself rated upwards of 150. It has to be said that I thought he got the run of the race out in front but there was no doubting his attitude in the closing stages as he saw off the challenge of race-fit rival in Unowhatimeanharry before drawing clear on the run to the line. He is clearly improving all the time but I would imagine his next intended target, the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January is likely to tell us more about his chances at The Festival. I briefly mentioned Unowhatimeanharry who ran a fine race despite being beaten on the day. It is worth remembering that he was conceding 6lb to most of the field here and although you would have fancied him to pick up the winner in the closing stages, he probably gave him too much rope. He remains a top-class staying hurdler and I would imagine we will see him next in the Long Walk at Ascot. Over in Ireland on Sunday, last year’s Stayers Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon lost little in defeat behind Apple’s Jade at Fairyhouse. Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old does have a good record fresh but I think he just found a race-fit Apple’s Jade too hot to handle on the day. He still looked to be in with a chance on the run to the second last but having pecked on landing, his chances of victory were ended. He ran on again after the last but he should benefit physically from this run and although he has plenty of form on soft ground, I think over these longer trips, he is better on a sounder surface. Gold Cup Having been pretty positive in last week’s post about the prospect of Thistlecrack returning, I have to admit I was pretty disappointed by his display at Newbury on Friday. I think that was largely down to the fact that the comments coming from the stable beforehand indicated he was spot on in terms of fitness for his return to action. His trainer has since admitted that they talked him up too much and having watched the race a few times, I am happy to agree with the assessment that he travelled well into the race but just got tired in the closing stages of the race. Clearly you would have preferred him to finish ahead of the likes of Taquin Du Seuil but Tom Scudamore was kind on the horse once he realised his chance was gone. The bookmakers reacted to his defeat by pushing him out to as big as 12/1 which was fair enough considering the display and you have to admit that he now goes to the King George with plenty to prove. That run should have done him good in terms of fitness but the Tizzard team now have three weeks to get him right for what looks likely to be a vintage renewal of the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. In terms of the Gold Cup, it all depends how he comes he fares in the King George but I certainly wouldn’t be tearing up our betting slip just yet. The below-par return to action of Thistlecrack has also forced Colin Tizzard into a rethink of plans for last year’s Gold Cup third Native River. The plan had been to give him one run before the Gold Cup but now connections are thinking two runs would probably be better for him. He is likely to start in the New Year and having started last season over hurdles, it would be no surprise to see him have a spin over the smaller obstacles on his first run back. The big winner in the Gold Cup market this weekend was Might Bite whose form got a significant boost with stablemate Whisper finishing an agonising second in the Ladbrokes Trophy. I would be the first to admit that before Saturday, I thought Whisper had it all to do off a big weight but he looks to have really improved this term, getting the better of Clan Des Obeaux at Kempton prior to his brave effort at the weekend. Having said that, I think he would need to step up again to play a significant role in the Gold Cup come March, so I think he is short enough at around the 12/1 or 14/1 quoted by most firms. We may get a better idea of the Irish Gold Cup contenders at the weekend with Sizing John and Djakadam both possible runners in Sunday’s John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown. The latter has won the last two renewals of the race but should Jessica Harrington’s Gold Cup winner turn up, it will be a better field than he has faced in each of the last two years. Novice Chasers JLT Death Duty moved to the top of several lists for the JLT following an authoritative victory in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday. Gordon Elliott’s six-year-old jumped well out in front under Davy Russell and although most of his rivals were still in touch turning for home, he quickened up well between the final two fences and stayed on well to the line to win by three and a quarter lengths. As a novice hurdler he was very exciting at this time of year before disappointing at Cheltenham in the Spring and I was interested to hear his trainer discuss that on Sunday. He mentioned that the horse didn’t travel very well from Ireland to England and he was a bit light on condition on the day of the race, confessing that if he had his time again he wouldn’t have run the horse. He also mentioned that although he believed the horse did stay 3m, he felt that the horse had plenty of speed and therefore the JLT might be the more likely option come the Spring rather than the RSA. Wherever he turns up, he is likely to be well-fancied and although I think the excuses for last season are genuine, I still think he needs to prove himself on a sounder surface as most of his best form has come on soft or heavy ground. Should he line-up in the JLT, he could face Willoughby Court who made it two from two over fences at Newbury on Friday. Ben Pauling’s six-year-old was not entirely convincing on his chasing debut at Huntingdon in November but this was much more like it as he jumped well out in front. He got a little low at one or two of the fences but other than that it was a fine round of jumping and he stayed on strongly to win the Grade 2 prize by three lengths. He won the novice hurdle equivalent, the Neptune (now Ballymore), at last season’s Festival and all roads appear to lead there again following this fine performance. RSA In behind Willoughby Court on Friday was Yanworth who I have to be honest, never really looked comfortable throughout the contest. He jumped a little slow and big early on and looked to be struggling to keep up with the leaders when making a mistake at the fourth last. To his credit, he kept going and got within three lengths of the winner at the line. My initial impression was that he might be more comfortable over 3m where they might go half a stride slower and therefore he might have more time to measure his jumps. He hasn’t looked the most natural of jumpers so far but he wasn’t beaten far at the line on Friday and if he can sharpen up his jumping, he could win a nice prize before the season is over. The mover in the RSA market over the weekend was Presenting Percy who may have been beaten at Punchestown a couple of weeks ago, but bounced back to form with victory on Sunday at Fairyhouse. Patrick Kelly’s six-year-old was dropping back into handicap company but was conceding plenty of weight to more experienced rivals and ran out a ready winner. He was given a confident ride by Davy Russell and having cruised into the lead at the second last, he came nicely clear in the closing stages to win by eleven lengths. The heavy ground was cited as the reason for his moderate display in the Grade 2 last time and assuming the ground is close to good come the Spring, he looks likely to take a leading role in the RSA. Novice Hurdlers Supreme Gordon Elliott’s Mengli Khan is now as short as 5/1 for the Supreme following his victory in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday. The four-year-old only had two starts over hurdles last term but has won his last three starts since returning to action in September. He seems to be settling better in his races and for such a big horse, he is very nimble over his obstacles. It is also worth remembering that although he has been winning on soft ground, he won on the all-weather at Kempton last year so a return to a sounder surface is unlikely to inconvenience him. My gut feeling is that other contenders for the race will emerge as the season goes on and whilst he is clearly a smart novice, I wouldn’t be racing to take 5/1 just yet. It is quite possible that these contenders will emerge in the coming weeks and it is also worth remembering that the loss of last season’s Champion Bumper winner Fayonagh and the injury to previous ante-post favourite Annamix may have left a hole in the division. However, I am sure the likes of Henderson, Nicholls and Mullins all have horses they are hoping will develop into Supreme contenders so it might just be a case of keeping our eyes open in the coming weeks. Whilst I’m not sure he will make up into a Supreme horse, Amy Murphy’s Kalashnikov looks one to keep on side, having extended his unbeaten record to three at Doncaster on Saturday. He pulled well clear of the rest before putting a previous winner to the sword by ten lengths and he looks ready for a step up in grade next time. His trainer has indicated he could well do just that come January, with Cheltenham’s Trials Day meeting likely to be on his agenda. He could well step up in trip there and it is hard to put a limit on his prospects given the manner in which he has performed in his career to date. Ballymore I also wanted to briefly mention Samcro in this week’s update following his owner’s comments that the horse still had plenty to prove in his eyes. He was right to point out that Death Duty won the same Graded race in similar style last term before disappointing in the Spring and that he would wait for his five-year-old to prove his worth on the track before talking him up. It is not surprising to hear the Ryanair boss talking his horse down and even the most ardent of Samcro supporters would have to admit that 2/1 for the Ballymore is pretty short considering what he has done so far. Bets I have no bets to advise this week. Ante-Post Diary: DOUVAN (Queen Mother Champion Chase) – 2pts win @ 3/1 (SkyBet, Ladbrokes, Coral) THISTLECRACK (Gold Cup) – 2pts win @ 6/1 (Betfair Sportsbook) DEFI DU SEUIL (Champion Hurdle) – 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral)
  6. Racing Chat - Friday Dec 1st

    12.20 Newbury – Ladbrokes “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle Newbury’s Winter Carnival gets underway with this 2m maiden hurdle whose recent roll of honour includes the likes of Buveur D’Air and Puffin Billy. This year’s renewal looks an interesting one and in terms of hurdling form, the one to beat looks to be Lostintranslation who was second over course and distance three weeks ago. Colin Tizzard’s five-year-old improved on the form of his return to action at Chepstow to pull well clear of the third horse but he was no match for Nicky Henderson’s Claimantakinforgan on the day. This race doesn’t look any easier but his experience could prove a crucial factor and he is fancied to go well. However, there are a host of hurdling debutants who make plenty of appeal including World Premier who was purchased by JP McManus following his victory in a bumper at Warwick back in April. The four-year-old showed plenty of signs of inexperience that day but showed he had a big engine, battling back in the closing stages before drawing clear to win by eight lengths. The form of that race hasn’t worked out particularly well but he is well thought of within the Ben Pauling yard and it is interesting that Barry Geraghty chooses him over JP’s other runner Kapcorse. Another bumper winner who looks a smart prospect is Simply The Betts who justified strong market support to make a winning debut at Market Rasen at the end of September. Harry Whittington’s four-year-old was not an expensive purchase but had been working well prior to his debut and the form has been boosted with the runner-up Theclockisticking winning his first two starts over hurdles. He is a full-brother to Crimson Ark, who won a novice hurdle at the first time of asking and he is another to consider in an open race. Dan Skelton ran a smart performer in the shape of Captain Forez in this race last year and he saddles an interesting newcomer here in Present Ranger. A runner-up on his only start in an English point, he didn’t seem to see out the 2m4f trip on that occasion. He makes his rules debut with the yard amongst the winners and although the strength of British point-to-point form isn’t as strong as their Irish counterparts, it will be interesting to see how he fares. However, the one who catches my eye is BLACK OP who won an Irish point-to-point by 25 lengths in March 2016 before being purchased for £210,000 a couple of weeks later. He made his bumper debut at Doncaster in February and showed a strong level of form to get the better of Claimantakinforgan, for all he was receiving 7lb from the runner-up. He was well-fancied for the Grade 2 bumper at Aintree’s Grand National meeting and although he failed to fire on that occasion, it is still early days with him. He should have improved physically for his summer break and given the initial promise he showed on his rules debut last year, I fancy him to go close on his hurdling bow. Advice BLACK OP – 1pt win @ 9/4 (Paddy Power) 12.50 Newbury – Ladbrokes Chase (A Novices’ Limited Handicap) Only 9lb separates the field for this Novices’ Handicap in what looks to be a competitive 6-runner race. Top weight for the contest is the Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname who gained his first British success last time out on his chase debut at Huntingdon. Having been recruited from France, he has been held in high-regard by his trainer but did not live up to those expectations in three runs over hurdles. However, the five-year-old enjoyed the switch to the bigger obstacles two weeks ago and he looks to be an exciting prospect in this sphere. The gelding jumped boldly throughout and had too much for his rivals to win by fourteen lengths. There were only three runners, but it was a decent race with Gary Moore’s Darebin, who was sent off as favourite, a well-beaten second. Cyrname can make another bold effort on Saturday if able to build on that run. Dusky Legend has been a very consistent mare for Alan King and can run her race again as she takes on the boys at Newbury. She performed at a very useful level over hurdles, finishing placed in the last two renewals of the Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. She has turned her attentions to chasing for this campaign and has finished runner-up on both starts. The seven-year-old improved on her latest start in a Listed Mares’ Chase at Bangor where she was only beaten a length and three quarters by Philip Kirby’s Lady Buttons, the pair finishing well-clear of the rest. Dusky Legend is likely to give it her all as she so often does this weekend, but may find one or two with more potential too strong for her. Preference is for HELL’S KITCHEN to continue the fine run of form for Harry Fry. The six-year-old has only had the five runs to date, winning once over hurdles, but his trainer has always viewed him as being a chaser in the making. On his chase debut in November 2016, he did well to finish third behind clear-cut winner Different Gravey, trained by Nicky Henderson, having been very keen on his seasonal reappearance. Unfortunately the gelding was not seen again until the beginning of November this year where he finished a very creditable second to Nicky Henderson’s potentially smart River Wylde. HELL’S KITCHEN was keen again early in the race but he jumped nicely and had every chance before River Wylde got the better of him by three lengths. He can come on for that run and gain his first chase success here before going onto bigger things. Of the rest of the field, there are two last time out winners in Bigmartre, trained by Harry Whittington, and Crievehill for Nigel Twiston-Davies. The former had run twice over fences in France but made a successful British chase debut at Ludlow in October. His form links in with Cyrname as he beat Darebin comfortably by three lengths that day. The six-year-old is open to improvement but Cyrname got the better of the same rival in much more style. Crievehill got off the mark at the second attempt over fences as he won a class 3 handicap at Lingfield two weeks ago. He is bottom-weight for the race but could find one or two too good for him on Saturday. The last to mention in the line-up is Exitas who has been kept busy this year by Phil Middleton and landed a Listed handicap at Ascot at the start of November. That was a good performance to win by seven lengths, but he has now had twelve runs over fences and may find it difficult against less exposed rivals. Advice HELL’S KITCHEN – 1pt win @ 15/8 (Paddy Power) 2.25 Newbury – Ladbrokes Open Handicap Chase. In the last 10 years, no horse has carried more than 11st 5lb to victory in this contest so O O Seven and Vibrato Valtat look up against it here with 11st 12lb and 11st 7lb respectively. The latter arrives here on his lowest mark since his hurdles days but for good reason as he has seemed to be firmly on the downgrade for a while now and left Paul Nicholls in the summer. He will likely strip fitter for his first run in the care of Emma Lavelle but, again, that was a very modest effort. Aside from the weight, the former has plenty of upside, lining up here on the same mark as when not beaten too far in the Topham at the Aintree Festival last season. It will be no easy task conceding weight all round here on his seasonal bow but he has gone well fresh in the past and could well run into a place. At the other end of the spectrum, Icing On The Cake is another making his debut this term and gets in here off a featherweight 10st 2lb. The lightly-raced seven-year-old shaped well when a staying on third over course and distance back in March and a 2lb rise for that effort seems perfectly reasonable. This looks like a stronger contest but he is still unexposed after only four chase starts and may surprise a few. Nevertheless, the selection is OLDGRANGEWOOD, who wasn;t disgraced when thirs in the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase last time out and has surprisingly been eased 2lb by the assessor on the back of that. He was a fast-improving novice last season, landing three handicaps before finishing a respectable third behind Cloudy Dream in the Grade 2 Future Champions Novices’ Chase at Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting to round off his campaign. Conditions should be perfect for him here and with his sights lowered slightly now, he should be able to take advantage. Ridgeway Flyer looks to be the biggest danger although little can be gleaned from his wide margin victory in a match at Taunton last time. The six-year-old was a two time winner over hurdles for Harry Fry last season and has carried on in the same vein since joining Paul Nicholls ahead of this campaign, staying on well to win a Plumpton novices’ handicap chase before his latest facile victory. He takes on some more experienced rivals here as he goes in search of the five-timer but is clearly a chaser going the right way at present and may well be a bit better than his mark of 137. Fellow novices Jameson and Space Oddity may also have a bit to find in this field. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge has a 10lb rise to contend with for a neck victory last time out while the latter races off a career-high mark here and has looked a tad one-paced in a few recent outings. Venetia Williams’ Willie Boy is an interesting contender having hit his straps since switching to fences. The Irish point winner fell at the first on his chasing bow but has a 100% record since, scoring in decent style over course and distance three weeks ago. He has a 6lb rise to contend with here but looks capable of still remaining competitive and will surely have a part to play if allowed to dominate at the front end. Advice OLDGRANGEWOOD– 1pt win @ 6/1 (bet365) (1/4 odds) 3.35 Newbury – Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle. When you remove the outlier of Philip Hobbs’ 2012 winner of this race, Fair Along, from the equation, a fairly strong pattern emerges pointing towards a certain type of horse to look for in this race – all other nine winners have been five or six years old and have been 10/1 or shorter in the market. This shows that this is usually a race for the unexposed, improving sorts who quite clearly have potential to be better than their marks. The likes of I Shot The Sheriff, Whataknight, Beneficial Joe and Oscarteea all have plenty of experience of this type of event and have decent levels of ability, but they may be more exposed compared to many of their younger rivals and could be vulnerable to improvers. One older horse who does break the mould a little is the Philip Hobbs-trained Hello George, who is fairly lightly-raced for an eight-year-old and could have more to come this season after a good effort in heavy ground at Ayr to start his campaign. That was a good performance in heavy ground on his first try at this staying trip and despite a 3lb rise in the weights, he looks one who could challenge the younger brigade. Speaking of said younger horses, it looks as if the market has already zeroed in on the three most likely winners, starting with Tom George’s six-year-old, Boyhood. This promising hurdler made a successful reappearance over two and a half miles in soft ground at Lingfield two weeks ago and looks a horse that has his best days ahead of him judging by the facile nature of that win and the way he was still green at times in front. The form of that win was boosted this week when the third there, Molly Carew, pushed Spiritofthegames all the way in a similar event at that track. The fourth, Away For Slates, also was a good second to a decent rival at Wetherby this week, so there’s plenty of substance to that victory. He’s gone up 7lb for that, which may not be enough to anchor him as he’s clearly an improving hurdler, but the step up in trip to three miles might do that job. He was disappointing at Bangor at the end of last season on his first go at a trip further than two and a half miles and he might just get found out by a stronger, proven stayer, even though he’s never been out of the first four in any of his races under rules. Jonjo O’Neill’s lightly-raced Forza Milan is a fascinating contender – a full brother to Grand National winner, One For Arthur, he certainly doesn’t want for stamina and has been steadily improving throughout all of his six starts under rules to date. He’s hugely unexposed and has already put in a performance at a very high level this season when a staying-on second to Louis’ Vac Pouch, a live contender for the Pertemps crown at Cheltenham in March, at Aintree off a 6lb lower mark. That rise does look a little harsh but he did finish well clear of the rapid improver, Beer Goggles, who races in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle here earlier on this card, and Vyta Du Roc, who is well-fancied in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Trophy. Killian Moore keeps the ride and takes 3lb off again and if this five-year-old continues to improve, he’ll be hard to keep out of the frame. However, there is one equally as unexposed who might just have more in the tank. Alan King’s BENEAGLES made an unceremonious start to his hurdling career, being pulled up at Uttoxeter, but it’s been onwards and upwards from then on as he finished a close second to useful rivals twice in two novice hurdles before breaking his duck at Huntingdon where he defeated a Nicky Henderson inmate in a match race over an extended three miles. This five-year-old then finished fifth and third in decent events over this trip at Ascot and Newbury, both times less than eight lengths behind the winner on both days, Dell’ Arca, who is now rated 150 over timber, so it’s solid form. He was behind Whataknight by half a length on his reappearance this season, but does look sure to have come on for that first run, whereas Harry Fry’s charge was already race fit, so I think that form will be turned around here. A mark of 127 looks very exploitable for this promising stayer and even though this ex-pointer’s future may lie over fences, he looks to have more than enough ability to win a race of this nature on the way. Softish ground is ideal and the likely decent pace on here should suit nicely, while he’s ridden by the stable number one jockey, Wayne Hutchinson, for just the second time in his career – was a short head second on the other occasion. BENEAGLES also sports a fist-time visor here and that could eke out plenty of improvement given that he looked as if he needed reminding to pay attention from a fair way out on that last run over C&D, before staying on strongly. All in all, he looks a very solid proposition indeed if he does, as expected, come on markedly for that first run of the season. Advice BENEAGLES – 1pt e/w @ 5/1 (bet365) (1/4 odds)
  7. MY Ante post Diary

    Hello and welcome to my Ante-post Diary which will be updated each Tuesday from now until the start of the Cheltenham Festival in March. I will run through the general format from week to week. In each update I plan to go through the four Championship races (Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, World Hurdle & Cheltenham Gold Cup) initially before discussing the novice divisions over hurdles and fences. Obviously as we get closer to the Festival the handicaps will also be discussed in depth as well as some of the other shoulder races and bets will be recommended where necessary Champion Hurdle A glance at the early markets for next year’s Champion Hurdle suggests that there isn’t much depth to this division this season. Having said that, the main reason that there are only four runners priced at shorter than 20/1 is that the 2015 winner Faugheen made a successful return to action at Punchestown a couple of weeks ago. Willie Mullins’ nine-year-old had not been seen on a racecourse since winning the Irish Champion Hurdle in January 2016 but seemed to be back in full working order, beating the reliable Jezki by sixteen lengths. I have to say I was very impressed and all indications were that he retained plenty of ability but having been off the track for nearly two years, we just have to hope that he can stay sound between now and March. To be honest, when he was winning two years ago I thought he was just about unbeatable over 2m and arguably one of the best Champion Hurdlers we had seen. I am not surprised to see him head the market now and although I suspect he will be a good deal shorter on the day (if he gets there), I don’t think there is much to be gained from taking a best-priced 15/8 now. According to the market, his main challenger at this stage looks to be the defending champion Buveur D’Air who is on course to make his seasonal reappearance in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on Saturday. Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old improved throughout last term and although he was an impressive winner at both Cheltenham and Aintree, I can’t help but think he would have a bit to find, if he was taking on a full-strength Faugheen. Prior to last weekend, there were plenty of people looking to Defi Du Seuil to make an impression on this division, having proved much the best of the juveniles last term. However, Philip Hobbs’ charge could only finish fourth in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot and most firms have reacted by pushing him out from as short as 6/1 to as big as 20/1. Personally, I thought he just didn’t see out the extra half mile as he travelled as well as anything and having jumped the third last, Barry Geraghty seemed quite content to take a pull on him. However, the petrol seemed to run out soon after and was outstayed by Lil Rockerfeller and L’Ami Serge, who both have the Stayers’ Hurdle as their primary target for March. Of course it is disappointing that he finished behind Wakea but I think it is still early days with him and I would hope to see him dropped back to 2m next time. His trainer reported afterwards that he was seemingly fine and as long as that remains the case, I think he can bounce back next time and still mount a serious challenge come March. The fact that the only other horse generally available at less than 20/1 is Melon gives you an idea of how few contenders there seemingly are for this race at the moment. Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up didn’t manage to win last term after making a winning debut but there was plenty to like about his win at Down Royal at the beginning of this month. His jump at the final flight left plenty to be desired and although he has only had four runs over hurdles and is open to further improvement, I think he has plenty to do to get up to this level. Champion Chase The major news in this division so far is that Altior looks more than likely to head straight to the Festival having had a operation on his wind a couple of weeks ago. Nicky Henderson’s charge was being prepped for a tilt at the Tingle Creek but made a noise during routine work and connections have decided to operate on his wind to help him. This is reportedly the same procedure that Sprinter Sacre had at the end of his novice hurdling campaign and I have every faith that he will return in A1 condition come the Spring. However, I have to say that I think the market is a little skewed at present as I feel Douvan should be at least the same price as Altior. Prior to running below-par in last year’s race, Douvan was widely regarded as an exceptional chaser and having suffered a stress fracture to his pelvis during that race, I am happy to put a line through it. It has also been interesting to read comments from Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins that they were never really happy with him last year, that despite him winning all three of his starts prior to Cheltenham. Following the news of Altior’s issues I thought Douvan would supersede his rival at the head of the market but the pair have remained much the same. The only reason I can see for not siding with Douvan here is that he has the option of going up in trip but in truth I don’t see him as a Gold Cup horse and frankly the Ryanair Chase doesn’t have the same prestige as the Champion 2m race. The indications are that Douvan will make his return to action in the next couple of weeks in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork or the Tingle Creek at Sandown and I think if he wins there, he will be much shorter than the 3/1 currently on offer. There is no doubt that Altior was a very good novice but it seems people have quickly forgotten just how good Douvan is and considering that he is likely to have race fitness on his side come March, I think he is the one to side with at this stage. Douvan’s stablemate Min also threw his hat into the ring for this race when winning at Gowran last weekend. He too would have the Ryanair as an option and he seemed to see the 2m4f trip out well here, for all he only beat Flaxen Flare on the day. It is worth remembering that his only defeat came when splitting Altior and Buveur D’Air in the Supreme in 2016 and having had just the eight starts, he looks one to keep an eye on as the season goes on. It would also be remiss of me not to mention Fox Norton who looked in the form of his life when winning the Shloer Chase for a second time a couple of weeks ago. He was relatively unlucky second in last year’s Champion Chase to finish second and proved his class when winning Grade 1s at both Aintree and Punchestown. Like many in this division, he also has the option of going up to 2m4f and it could be that he ends up in the Ryanair, especially if Douvan and Altior both turn up in the Champion Chase. Stayers Hurdle Harry Fry’s Unowhatimeanharry had an excellent campaign last term and although he came up short in March, there is every chance that he can go a little closer this year. The key factor for him is likely to be the ground as his only defeat last term came on good ground at the Festival and he was just caught out by the speedier Nichols Canyon. He did manage to turn the tables on that rival at Punchestown however on slower ground and I imagine he will likely have a similar campaign to last year in the hope that the ground is in his favour come March. The form of his reappearance win was franked at the weekend as Top Notch ran out a ready winner of the Christy 1965 Chase on Saturday and with fitness on his side, Harry Fry’s horse looks likely to give Thistlecrack plenty to think about at Newbury on Friday. In truth, this looks a division that has the potential for something to come through and make a real name for themselves and it will be interesting to see how the form of last year’s Albert Bartlett works out as the season goes on. Monalee and Ami Desbois have both gone novice chasing but Penhill has the potential to make a smart hurdler on quick ground. He won’t be seen until the New Year but with most of his best form coming on a sounder surface, he shouldn’t miss too many targets. The Worlds End fell in the Albert Bartlett and despite failing to fire at Haydock on Saturday, I wouldn’t be too quick to write him off. Despite the fact he won on soft ground last term, I’m not sure Saturday’s conditions were ideal and I still think he has the potential to make an impact in this division. One other one I want to mention is Apple’s Jade who would interest me were she to go down this route. Her stamina came to the fore when winning the Mares’ Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival and I think there is every chance that she would get 3m. Obviously retaining the Mares’ Hurdle is more than likely to be her main objective but I would see this as a viable alternative and it will be interesting to see if connections decide to go down this route with her. Gold Cup For me, there is only one place to start here and that is with Thistlecrack who looks all set to make his return to action over hurdles at Newbury on Friday. Colin Tizzard has been pleased with the nine-year-old’s preparations and all being well, he should be able to see off whatever turns up in the race. Looking ahead, this looks likely to be a prep for the King George, which he won so well last year before heading to the Gold Cup. Clearly he has to prove all is well on Friday but I am led to believe that the setback he had wasn’t too serious and there shouldn’t be any danger of him suffering a recurrence. The only question mark I have is whether he would really see out the Gold Cup trip but looking at those around him in the market, I think he looks the most attractive at this stage. Second in on most lists is last year’s winner Sizing John who swerved Saturday’s Betfair Chase with connections unwilling to run the horse on heavy ground on his seasonal reappearance. He has plenty of form on soft ground but with the season ahead, it seemed the sensible decision to wait for an alternative target. There is no question that he improved immensely once stepped up to 3m last term but having run two big races at Cheltenham and Punchestown last Spring, I wonder whether those may leave their mark this term. Of last year’s novices, at this stage Might Bite looks the most likely to play a leading role in the Gold Cup picture but given his wayward tendencies at Cheltenham in particular, I would be unwilling to back him with any confidence. He is clearly a very talented performer and would have won the Feltham in a very quick time but for falling at Kempton last year but I think there are more reliable options in the race. One of our ante-post selections last season Disko could also develop into a Gold Cup horse come the end of the season, having won a Grade 1 over 3m at Punchestown. I have to admit it is a little frustrating to read comments such as ‘I’ve always seen him as a three miler’ from his trainer, having tipped him for the RSA last term but it might be that wasn’t the right sort of race for him at that stage of his career. His bold front-running style means he rarely finds trouble in his races and if he continues to improve, there is no reason why he can’t end up in the Gold Cup picture come March. The fly in most ante-post markets for the Cheltenham Festival is Yorkhill who is towards the head of the market for most of the Championship races. Personally, I didn’t feel he was a natural over the larger obstacles last term but there is no question that he was very impressive when winning the JLT at last year’s Festival. The form of that race is strong and on breeding at least, he looks to have every chance of staying 3m. Having said that, I would be inclined to go down the Champion Hurdle route with him but it is likely to be a case of wait and see with him. Novice Chasers Arkle It is still early days for the novices but there have been a few performances which have caught my eye including Footpad who made a winning debut over the larger obstacles at Navan a couple of weeks ago. Willie Mullins’ five-year-old was a smart hurdler, finishing fourth in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham before going one place better over 3m at Punchestown. What impressed me most was how well he jumped under Daryl Jacob and the way he attacked his fences was synonymous with a much more experienced horse. One thing that you have to do in the Arkle is jump at speed (as we have seen to our cost in the last two renewals) and at this early stage of the season, it seems that this five-year-old is well equipped. We are likely to learn more as the season goes on but he looks an above-average recruit to chasing at the moment. Petit Mouchoir finished one place ahead of Footpad at Cheltenham and having also won twice in Grade 1 company last term, he looks another smart recruit to chasing. He jumped very well when winning at Punchestown in October and being trained by Henry De Bromhead, I have every faith that his jumping will stand up to the rigours of a championship race at Cheltenham. Unfortunately, he had a setback following his debut win and is unlikely to be back until February but should he run well on his return, I think he will end up in the Arkle come March. On this side of the Irish Sea, Brain Power put his name forward as a potential Arkle contender with a thrilling debut success at Kempton on Monday. He jumped well on the whole and although got in a little tight to a couple of fences, it is nothing out of the ordinary for a novice chaser. Nicky Henderson has a very good record when it comes to the Arkle and if this horse can go on improving, he could be a leading contender for the master of Seven Barrows. RSA I mentioned Monalee briefly when talking about the Stayers’ Hurdle earlier on and judged on his chasing debut at Punchestown, he looks another one for the Henry De Bromhead team to look forward to. He only had the five runs over hurdles but showed he was a strong stayer and having had enough pace to win over 2m4f on his chasing debut, it is no surprise towards the head of the market for the RSA. It will be interesting to see which novice chase at the Festival Finian’s Oscar ends up in and at this stage, I would have to say that the RSA looks the most likely option. His jumping needs a bit of work as he made errors at Chepstow and Cheltenham but he showed a real winning attitude last time to hit the front up the run-in and win going away at the line. It could be that the JLT proves to be his race but I imagine we will have to wait until nearer the time for targets become clearer. Friday’s novice chase at Newbury has been won by some smart performers in the past including Bobs Worth and Coneygree and it looks as though we will see Yanworth and Willoughby Court take each other on this year. Both arrive with questions to answer with Alan King’s seven-year-old having fallen at Exeter last time and Ben Pauling’s charge having jumped out to his left on his chasing debut at Huntingdon. Newbury should suit the latter in terms of if he does tend to jump that way and if anything Yanworth just overjumped at Exeter. Both have the potential to make up into smart chasers and I will certainly be an interested spectator on Friday. One who I did have half an eye on over the summer for this race is Constantine Bay who ran a fine race to finish fourth in the Albert Bartlett, having been hampered by the fall of The Worlds End at the second last. He ran well to finish fourth at Aintree but having won a point-to-point, there is every chance that he can make up into a better chaser. Sadly he will miss the whole season with an injury and although his trainer has said it isn’t too serious an issue, it is enough for him to miss the entire campaign. Novice Hurdlers If it is early days for the chasers then the novice hurdlers have been pretty quiet although there have been a couple of notable performances that I want to quickly mention. With Rich Ricci revealing on Monday evening that ante-post favourite for the Supreme Annamix will miss the whole season through injury, yesterday’s Monksfield Novice Hurdle winner Samcro has now moved to the head of that market as well as the one for the Ballymore and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdles. Gordon Elliott’s five-year-old was as smooth a winner as you are likely to see of a Graded race as barely turned a hair in winning by twelve lengths at Navan. The world appears to be his oyster at present and as novices go, I think he is by far the most impressive I have seen this season so far. One thing he will have to prove eventually is that he is as effective on quicker ground but his trainer believes he could be even better on a sounder surface so he might take a lot of beating come the Spring. Another performance which caught my eye in the early part of the season is that of Next Destination who saw off some useful rivals when winning at Naas. Willie Mullins’ five-year-old saw off the likes of Someday, Paloma Blue and Pallasator when making a winning start over hurdles, pulling clear impressively in the hands of Paul Townend to win by thirteen lengths. He was a close fourth in last season’s Champion Bumper and has all the makings of a smart novice hurdle prospect. One final horse who I feel has a bright future is Slate House who has won his first two starts for Colin Tizzard. Both of those victories have come at Cheltenham and although the last win is unsatisfactory in that the final two hurdles were omitted, he still found enough on the run-in to get the job done. He looks a strong stayer at 2m and at this stage of the season, I could see him developing into one for the Ballymore novices’ hurdle. My Bets: DOUVAN (Queen Mother Champion Chase) – 2pts win @ 3/1 (SkyBet, Ladbrokes, Coral) The first of my bets for this year’s Festival is a little shorter than I normally look for but I feel there is plenty going in Douvan’s favour in order to side with him at this stage. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t feel there is much between Altior and Douvan and considering that the former is now sidelined until the Sping, I am surprised that the bookies have not shortened up Willie Mullins’ horse more. He seems to be on course to run in the next couple of weeks and if he wins as expected I have no doubt he will shortened up. The only risk I see is that he steps up in trip and goes down a different route but I think the percentages are that he will run in the Champion Chase and if does, he would have a leading chance. THISTLECRACK (Gold Cup) – 2pts win @ 6/1 (Betfair Sportsbook) I discussed a number of the concerns I have about the other leading contenders a little earlier on and with that in mind, I think this is the right time to be backing Thistlecrack for the Gold Cup. Friday’s assignment is unlikely to tell us anything other than that he is fit and well but even so, it is hard to see him not shortening afterwards. The indications are that he is as good as ever and all being well I think he will head to the King George before going to the Festival. There was clearly something amiss when he was beaten at Cheltenham last term but the rest of his form in the past two seasons suggests he is a cut above his rivals. At 6/1, I think he has the potential to shorten as the season goes on and although there is a small risk involved in backing him before we see him, I think this is the time to get on. DEFI DU SEUIL (Champion Hurdle) – 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral) My final bet this week is a bit of a flyer and although he was clear disappointing on Saturday, I think Ladbrokes and Coral have overreacted by pushing him out to as big as 20/1. As I have said, I think he just ran out of petrol last weekend and having been fresh in the early part of the race, he should come on for this outing. He remains a horse with plenty of potential and in a market where there isn’t much depth, I think it is worth us having a small each-way punt on him at 20/1, especially considering some firms are as short as 12/1. Ante-Post Diary DOUVAN (Queen Mother Champion Chase) – 2pts win @ 3/1 (SkyBet, Ladbrokes, Coral) THISTLECRACK (Gold Cup) – 2pts win @ 6/1 (Betfair Sportsbook) DEFI DU SEUIL (Champion Hurdle) – 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral)
  8. Racing chat -Sat 26th Aug

    1.55 York – Betfred Mobile Strensall Stakes (Group 3) There are two eight-year-olds in the race who look sure to give there all again on Saturday. Firstly, Sovereign Debt has found a new lease of life since joining the Ruth Carr stable as he has racked up a hat-trick of wins in his five runs for the trainer. This started with success in the All-Weather Mile Championships at Lingfield on Good Friday and he then stepped up to Group 2 company on his next start. He landed the bet365 Mile at Sandown as he showed a good attitude to finish off the race up the hill, with Gabrialthe runner-up. He then beat the same rival again in the Group 3 Diomed Stakes at Epsom on Derby day. This time the outcome was closer as he held on by a neck. On his latest effort Sovereign Debt was back to Group 2 level in the Summer Mile at Ascot but could only finish fifth as he was held up further off the pace than ideal and had to come wide when making his challenge. He can bounce back on Saturday but may find or two too strong for him. The other eight-year-old in the line-up is Gabrial, trained by Richard Fahey. He has been consistent in Group races throughout his career and keeps on getting involved at this level. He started 2017 with races in Meydan and Doha and has returned to Britain to perform creditably since. He finished fourth in the competitive Lincoln at Doncaster and then did well to finish second in the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Sandown, half a length behind rival Sovereign Debt. After that he was fourth in Group 3 Huxley Stakes at Chester before being only beaten a neck by Sovereign Debt in Epsom’s Diomed Stakes. Those performances would see him on the premises yet again on Saturday, but he is vulnerable for win purposes. MONDIALISTE is a two-time international Grade 1 winner at his best for David O’Meara (the 2015 Woodbine Mile Stakes and the 2016 Arlington Million), but went lost his form to start off 2017. However, he showed promise in his third run of the season in Sandown’s Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes, where he stayed on well for fourth over the ten furlongs trip. The son of Galilieo was then dropped back to a mile for the Listed Ganton Stakes on the Knavesmire. He travelled well that day and had every chance before finishing sixth behind Goldolphin’s Arabian Hope. Last time out was a return to form for the seven-year old as he was tried again over the mile and two furlongs. He put up a very good effort to finish a nose second to Irish raider Success Days, staying on over from the rear of the field. MONDIALISTE is taken to build on that run and get back to winning ways in the Strensall. Other to note are the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Mustashry and Master The World for David Elsworth. They both bring high-class handicap form to the race and are looking to make the step up to Group level. The former could be the main threat to the selection having won a good class 2 at Chelmsford last time, getting the better of Mark Johnston’s Masham Star. He is lightly-raced and has more potential to improve than Master The World, who would need to step up on his latest effort when fourth in the Group 3 Sovereign Stakes at Salisbury. Advice MONDIALISTE – 1pt win @ 3/1 (Boylesports) 2.25 York – Betfred Melrose Handicap Sir Michael Stoute’s Intellect won in the style of a very progressive colt at Newbury last month, drawing clear impressively in the closing stages to win by nine lengths. He showed no signs of stopping that day and having improved so much for the step up to 1m4f, you would have to think that another two furlongs won’t be beyond him. Both of his victories have come on soft ground so there would have to be a question mark if the ground quickens up and having been raised 12lb, he is passed over. Mark Johnston’s runners are normally not to far away in this race and the pick of his pair looks to be Sofia’s Rock. The colt’s form has been a bit in and out but there was plenty to like about his run at Newmarket last time and he also ran well when third in Group 3 company at the same venue in July. He sits towards the top of the weights here so could be vulnerable to less exposed rivals but he if runs to his best form, he shouldn’t be too far away. On To Victory and Winston C are both closely matched on their runs at Goodwood, where there was just a length and a quarter between them. However, I think the soft ground may have suited the former better on that occasion and I think there is a possibility that the form could be reversed on this sounder surface. However, the one I like the look of is NORTHWEST FRONTIER who has snuck in towards the bottom of the weights. Richard Fahey’s gelding was still green when second at Thirsk last time and although this is a much better race, he should be suited by the step up in trip and has next to no weight on his back. His trainer hasn’t had the best of weeks so far but this well-bred colt looks worth an each-way bet. Advice NORTHWEST FRONTIER – 0.5pt e/w @ 14/1 (Ladbrokes) (4 places 1/4 odds) 3.00 York – Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes (Group 2) This looks a pretty good renewal of the Gimcrack with a number of smart colts taking their chance. Mark Johnston’s Cardsharp has already won a Group 2 this season having landed the July Stakes at Newmarket. However, he carries a 3lb penalty for that success here and with only two horses having successfully carried that penalty since 2000, he looks to be up against it. A number of these ran in the Richmond Stakes won by Barraquero including Nebo who has been second in Group 2 company on his last two starts. He seems pretty versatile in terms of ground and if produces his latest run, he is likely to be right in the mix. Headway also ran in that race but performed well below expectations down in sixth. I would be prepared to forgive him that effort as the soft ground clearly wasn’t to his liking and he should be able to bounce back to form on this sounder surface. William Haggas has won this race three times and it is no surprise to see this colt towards the head of the market. However, there are a couple of colts stepping into Group company for the first time including Sands Of Mali who got off the mark in style at Nottingham at the beginning of the month. He got the better of a subsequent Listed winner on that occasion and I’m sure connections will be hoping for a big run. But the one I like the look of is STORMBRINGER who was an expensive purchase at the breeze-up sales and was far from disgraced when third to Another Batt on his debut in July. He paid the price for trying to take on George Scott’s colt that day but had no trouble getting off the mark at Redcar next time, stretching clear impressively in the closing stages under hands and heels riding. The cheekpieces he wore that day were declared in error so they aren’t retained today but Kevin Ryan has won this race twice in the last five years and I think this colt is very overpriced at 25/1. Advice STORMBRINGER – 0.5pt e/w @ 25/1 (bet365)(1/4 odds) 3.35 York – Betfred Ebor (HANDICAP ) This race has proved a real graveyard for older contenders with only four horses older than five being able to land the Ebor since the legendary Sea Pigeon scored as a nine-year-old in 1979. All four have done so in the last twelve years (including the last two) but even so, this is a particularly strong negative statistic. There are several runners in today’s field aged six or above including the likes of Ivan Grozny, Top Tug and Nakeeta. Usually in races such as this, being drawn on the rail is an advantage but that hasn’t proved the case in the Betfred Ebor. Runners drawn low have been at an overwhelming disadvantage in recent years with only three of the last ten winners scoring from stall 14 or lower. With victory in the Betfred Ebor being held in such high esteem, those jockeys drawn low have shown a tendency to break far too quickly from the stalls in order to take advantage of their draw, but only end up setting a furious early pace in order to maintain their position. These early exertions clearly take their toll and play right into the hands of those drawn wide. The weights in the Betfred Ebor are fairly well compressed these days, making this trend fairly a minor one, but it must be noted that only four of the last 26 winners successfully shouldered more than 9st 3lbs. In such a competitive handicap where stamina is at an absolute premium, every pound matters, and the chances of the seven in the field who are carrying the desired weight must be increased. The 2011 25/1 winner Moyenne Corniche went against a well-established trend, notably that he had finished outside of the first four on his most recent start. This is a stat that has accounted for eight of the last ten winners, so it does not look a race in which it is best to pin your hopes on a horse returning to form here. We can take this trend one step further when you consider that 8 of the last 10 winners had achieved a top two finish on either or both of their two latest starts. Whichever way you look at it, favourites do not fare well in the Betfred Ebor – there have only been two winning favourites since 1998, and there have been four winners in the last decade priced no shorter than 20/1. Therefore the best advice, other than to oppose the favourite, is to back your selection regardless of the starting price. Shortlist DUBKA – 5/6 Star Storm – 5/6 Nakeeta – 5/6 Magic Circle – 5/6 Conclusion In an ultra-competitive renewal of the race, all of our runners miss at least one of the trends but the one who gets the narrow vote is DUBKA. Sir Michael Stoute’s filly seemed to appreciate the return to 1m6f when second in Group 3 company last time and she is an intriguing contender back in handicap company. The one trend that she misses is that she has 9st 4lb on her back, but with the bottom weight carrying 9st 3lb I don’t think this trend will be as important in this year’s renewal. Her form suggests she wouldn’t want the ground to get too quick but I think it is unlikely to do so, so she must have a big chance. Just missing out on the top spot is Star Storm who was third in a valuable handicap at Ascot last time. James Fanshawe’s five-year-old has plenty of Group form to his name including a Group 3 and if he brings his A game then he is likely to go close to giving his trainer another big handicap pot. Iain Jardine went close twelve months ago with Shrewd and he looks to have another interesting contender here in the shape of Nakeeta. The six-year-old was second off a mark of 99 in October at Leopardstown and ran well for a long way off his raised mark at Newmarket last time. He has course and distance form to his name having chased home Dal Harraild here in May and with Callum Rodriguez taking a useful 5lb off his back, he has to go close. The final member of the shortlist is Magic Circle who snuck in at the foot of the weights having won over 2m here earlier in the week. Ralph Beckett’s five-year-old won with a bit up his sleeve on that occasion and with the 4lb penalty unlikely to make much difference, he looks well-placed to go close to completing a notable double. Advice DUBKA – 0.5pt e/w @ 12/1 (BetVictor) (4 places 1/4 odds) 4.10 York – The Julia Graves Roses Stakes (Listed Race) An uncharacteristically large field for this year’s renewal which makes finding the winner very tricky indeed. Qatar Racing were responsible for back-to-back winners in 2013 & 2014 courtesy of Hot Streak and Mid of Madness and are represented this time round by Out of The Flames. The Queen Mary third was well fancied in the Listed St Hugh’s Stakes at Newbury last time but was well beaten in seventh, finishing 2 ½ lengths adrift of Looks A Million. She should have sounder underfoot conditions here though and is likely to be in the mix. However, preference is for TO WAFIJ on the back of a pair of fine third-place finishes behind subsequent Group 1 runner-up Havana Grey. The son of Kodiac has stayed on well without threatening the front two on each occasion but his running style looks well suited to this bigger field as he can be waited with to strike off a strong pace. He comfortably holds Formidable Kitt on their Sandown meeting back in July, and Koditime and Encrypted from the Molceomb last time. With a host of big race entries to his name, connections evidently think a bit of him and this looks a slightly easier opportunity than those he’s been contesting of late. Elizabeth Darcy could well be the one to chase him home if repeating her runner-up effort in a Deauville Group 3 last time. She stayed on well in ground that was likely a lot softer than ideal and could well have finished closer on a sounder surface. She looked all speed when attempting to go from the front in the Windsor Castle Stakes won by Sound And Silence at Royal Ascot, eventually fading into sixth but could take a lot of reeling in if allowed an easy lead here. On official ratings, Bengali Boys is the one to beat and you couldn’t fail to be impressed with his barnstorming display in the Weatherbys Super Sprint last month. He powered clear of Declarationoflove by six lengths, an astonishing feat in a race as competitive as that, and the gallant grey is entitled to step up to this level on the back of that performance. I’m always a tad sceptical of sales race form though and while I fully expect him to be there or thereabouts, I think the percentage call is to look elsewhere. Of the remainder, Pursuing The Dream has to enter the reckoning having scored at Listed level in France last time out. She carries a 3lb penalty for that though and was well beaten in the Super Sprint. Advice TO WAFIJ – 1.5pt win @ 9/2 (Paddy Power) 4.40 York – The Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Handicap Stakes This handicap is usually stacked and looks a devilishly difficult puzzle to try and solve but history suggests that the cream tends to rise to the top with an average winning price of just 15/2 in the last 10 runnings, a pretty low return given the field size has dipped under 15 just once in that time period. Khairaat will top many a shortlist and the ante-post favourite for the Cambridgeshire admittedly has bags of upside. Sir Michael Stoute’s charge hosed up in a handicap at Chester’s May meeting, beating Brorocco by 4 ½ lengths in the process, before being sent off favourite in the Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot, won by Snoano. That was a mammoth ask for a horse up 13lb on just his fifth start and he wasn’t beaten all that far in fairness despite finishing 13th, suffering a bit of a troubled passage in the process. He bounced back well at Goodwood though when third behind Dark Red (placed 2nd), just paying the price for his inexperience as he drifted across the track with the leading pair. He is up 2lb for that, compared to Dark Red’s 4lb, which should see him turn the tables on the Ed Dunlop runner and a big run is expected. However, preference is for the horse that finished one place behind him that day in Roger Varian’s UAE PRINCE. He was staying on like a train from way back only to fall foul of Dark Red’s drift across the track and was value to finish a bit closer had he been allowed a straight line. He remains on the same mark as last, the same 97 that saw him finish a close-up fourth in the John Smith’s Cup, and his time certainly looks to be coming sooner rather than later. The Stoute and Varian runners look the class acts in the field and comfortable hold the re-opposing Eddystone Rock (8th), Bravery (9th), Baydar (11th) and Speed Company (15th). These York handicaps are normally a haven for locally-trained runners but this particular contest has been anything but. Richard Fahey is the only Yorkshire-based handler to have registered a winner in the last 10 renewals, courtesy of Our Joe Mac back in 2011, and his sole runner Spring Offensive looks to be up against it on current form despite dropping back to his last winning mark. He finished six lengths behind Storm King at Goodwood last time out and will likely get found out again in this sort of company. The local challenge looks to be headed by Mark Johnston, who hasn’t had the best time of things at this meeting over the years but has already got on the scoresheet this week. He is double-handed here with Beardwod and Titi Makfi, with the latter holding the strongest claims of the duo. The sole three-year-old in the line-up receives a handy weight-for-age allowance and registered her fifth win of the campaign at Newmarket last time. A further 4lb rise and a career-high mark of 97 means that she needs to pull out a bit more here but she could well be up to it. Of the remainder, Weekend Offender must come into consideration having stayed on nicely to score at Ayr a fortnight ago. He was being considered for a crack at the John Smith’s Cup until falling foul of the Kevin Ryan yard’s quarantine so this contest over C&D could well be considered a viable consolation. Kentuckyconnection is a horse I find most intriguing having shown his first piece of form since being hammered by the handicapper for finishing fifth in last year’s 1000 Guineas back in June. He is at least on a more realistic mark now but isn’t certain to relish the step back up to this trip. Advice UAE PRINCE – 1.5pt win @ 4/1 (Paddy Power) 5.15 York – Betfred Apprentice Handicap Trainer Tim Easterby will be aiming to end the Ebor Festival with another winner as he saddles Copper Knight in the closing Apprentice Handicap. The three-year-old has been in fine form in 2017 since switching from the Hugo Palmer yard, winning two of his six races. He got back to winning ways on his second start for Easterby in a class 2 at Chester, the course where his only previous win had came as a juvenile in the Lily Agnes. He made all to get the better of Evergate by two and a quarter lengths and then followed up that performance with success over Saturday’s course and distance. He employed front-running tactics again to good effect that day and won with a bit in hand. The colt looked worth a try in a higher grade and then went for the Listed Scurry Stakes at Sandown. He put up a very creditable effort to finish third, with the form being strongly franked by the winner high-class Bataash and also the runner-up Koropick. However, next time out he finished down the field in the City Walls Stakes on the Knavesmire before returned to a handicap at Ascot on his latest run. He got back on track when finishing fourth there and looks likely to make another bold bid at York this weekend. Holmeswood has also been in top form as he bids to make it a hat-trick of wins on Saturday for trainer Michael Dods. He not won since the final start of his two-year-old campaign but being gelded has made the difference for the son of Mayson. After finishing fourth at Ayr he comfortably got back to winning ways at that same course dropped to five furlongs. He was then retuned again to six furlongs at Ripon last time out and made it successive victories as he stayed on well to get on top close home. The gelding will need to find more improvement to complete the hat-trick as he is upped in class and back over the shorter distance. Dods also saddles Intense Romance who has made up for lost time in 2017 having been unraced as a two-year-old. She has had a busy campaign with eleven runs so far and has developed an impressive strike rate, racking up five wins. Four of those wins have came on the all-weather at Newcastle but on her last three starts she has shown that she can reproduce that form the turf. After finishing a close second at Carlisle last month, the filly gained her first win on the turf in a class 4 at Ascot. She travelled well on the slower ground that day and put the race to bed nicely. Last time out Intense Romance finished fourth upped to a class 3 at Glorious Goodwood but was unlucky not to finish closer having been hampered. She remains in form and looks likely to run her race again at York. Preference is for EVERGATE who has been rejuvenated since moving to the Robert Cowell yard. Like Copper Knight, he was previously with Hugo Palmer but has been in consistent form this year after having a change of scenery. The son of Exceed And Excel finished runner-up on his first three starts for Cowell with the last of those coming behind Copper Knight at Chester. Although beaten two and a quarter lengths on that occasion, the change in weights on Saturday can help him to reverse the positions. EVERGATE was in receipt of 2lb at Chester but will be receiving 16lb at York with Jonathan Fisher taking off a useful 7lb. Also, EVERGATE went on to record victory next time out in a class 2 at Windsor, where the softer conditions were no problem as he kept on strongly to beat Roger Varian’s Yalawin by a length. On his latest run at Doncaster he was upped to six furlongs where he finished fifth. However, he was making progress but his run ended when he hung into the runner-up. EVERGATE is taken to resume his progress on Saturday and prove himself to be another useful sprinter for trainer Robert Cowell. Advice EVERGATE – 1pt e/w @ 9/1 (bet365, BetVictor) (4 places ¼ odds
  9. Racing Chat - Tuesday June 20th (Inc. Ascot Day 1)

    2.30 Ascot – Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1) Royal Ascot kicks off with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes and it features one of the strongest favourites of the week, so the opener will be important for many people who have had an accumulator this week. The odds-on market leader is Ribchester, who trainer Richard Fahey has long-regarded as the best horse he has ever had. The colt has lived up to that reputation with a fine 2016 which saw him develop into one of the world’s top milers. He showed his potential as a juvenile with Group 2 success in the Mill Reef at Newbury and has since gone on to build on that form. After his first run as three year-old in in France where things did not go his way, he improved to finish a good third in the 2,000 Guineas behind Galileo Gold. He then went onto Royal Ascot success last year with an impressive victory in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes. He travelled powerfully that day before quickening clear to win by two and a quarter lengths. That showed he was ready for a step back up to a mile and to also to higher class. After Ascot, he was involved in one of the races of the 2016 season in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. He was involved in a battle with Aidan O’Brien’s The Ghurka and Galileo Gold and finished powerfully for a very good third on his first try on fast ground. Ribchester then went on to Group 1 glory in the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville, again travelling strongly. He could not manage to add to that in the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot on Champions Day, finishing a creditable third to Minding. On his 2017 reappearance he finished third in the Duabi Turf where the one mile one furlong trip could have stretched him. However, he gained another Group 1 success in the Lockinge at Newbury last time out, where he showed his versatility to make all with a stylish three and three quarter length success. That performance cemented his status as favourite for the Queen Anne and he will be hard to beat in the opening race. Second behind Ribchester at Newbury was the David Simcock-trained Lightning Spear who has developed into a consistent top-level miler. His trainer has been waiting to get the six-year-old back on fast ground and he should have his ideal conditions on Tuesday. The last time that he had fast ground was in August last year when he landed the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Gooodwood, showing a nice turn of foot after being caught in traffic. In his two runs since then, he finished a place behind Ribchester and, although he will have the ground to suit, it will take a big effort to turn the tables. At the prices, a chance is taken on American-raider MISS TEMPLE CITY, who has twice run well at the Royal Meeting previously for trainer Graham Motion. In the2015 Coronation Stakes, she was involved in one of the races of the week as she finished a close fourth behind the high-class Found and Ervedya. Last year, on ground softer than ideal, she finished a creditable fourth behind Andre Fabre’s Usherette when she would have been suited by a faster pace and did not get a clear run. Since then she has gone on to land the two Grade 1s at Keeneland in October and then at Del Mar on her last run in December. She has not run since so Royal Ascot has been the aim and with conditions to suit the five-year-old can get involved in the Royal Anne this year. Advice MISS TEMPLE CITY – 0.5pt e/w @ 28/1 (bet365) (1/4 odds) 3.05 Ascot – Coventry Stakes (Group 2) The Coventry Stakes is considered the best early season 2yo race by many and a look at the roll of honour suggests that it is a Group 1 in all but name. Henrythenavigator, Power and Dawn Approach have all gone on to win Classics as three-year-olds and last year’s winner Caravaggio looks set to make his mark in the sprinting division this year. Aidan O’Brien has a better record than many, having saddled four winners in the last decade and eight overall. This year he saddles two representatives, with the shortest in the betting being Murillo, who is a general 10/1 shot. He is by Scat Daddy who sired last year’s winner and despite attracting support on debut, he finished last of six at the Curragh just over a month ago. Clearly better was expected that day and he made up for it next time when dropped back to 5f at Tipperary. On pedigree he should have no trouble returning to 6f but he will need to step a good deal on what he has done so far. O’Brien also saddles U S Navy Flag who may still be a maiden but has form that suggests he deserves his place in the lineup. His latest effort when third behind Brother Bear at the Curragh was a good one on ground which would have been softer than ideal and on a sounder surface, it would be no surprise to see him outrun his sizeable odds. There is another Coolmore-owned colt in the lineup in the shape of Arawak who is from the Wesley Ward stable. He won his only start by seven lengths on the dirt at Belmont and was reported to work well along with stablemate McErin on the Ascot track last week. Wesley Ward has enjoyed success here in the past but it is normally the 5f races in which he does well and although he is likely to be towards the head of affairs with a furlong to run, he might just be outstayed by the European horses. The Richard Hannon yard has also enjoyed plenty of success in this race and they look to have two live chances in this year’s renewal. The most experienced of the pair is De Bruyne Horse who ran no sort of race of debut but has since made amends, winning impressively at Ripon before landing the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom last time. He showed a good attitude that day and I think he won despite not being in love with the track. He has a similar profile to Buratino who won this race two years ago and I find it hard to see him finishing out of the top four here, having said that I think he could be vulnerable to a real top-class performer. Denaar also looks to have a leading chance and comes here having won his first two starts. A 300,000 guineas purchase at the breeze-up sales in April, although he won with plenty in hand on debut it was his latest success at Newbury that marked him out as a potentially smart colt. On ground which was softer than ideal, he showed a really good attitude to see off the challenges of his rivals before pulling away from them inside the final furlong. He had looked like a sitting duck inside the final furlong but the way he knuckled down was really impressive. He has drawn plenty of comparisons with Mehmas who was second in this race last year and of the Hannon pair, I slightly prefer his claims. However, BROTHER BEAR is a colt that I have had an eye on since making a winning debut at Leopardstown last month. Jessica Harrington’s colt picked up well that day to get the better of two rivals who both won next time. Despite encountering very different conditions at the Curragh last time, he once again travelled well before stretching clear of his rivals inside the final furlong. That race was the same one that Caravaggio won on route to victory here twelve months ago and he had a couple of his rivals here (U S Navy Flag and Aqabah) in behind on that occasion. He seems pretty versatile in terms of ground and I think he probably has the best form in the race. His trainer has shown she is adept at getting one ready for the big day and in an open race, he gets the nod. Of the remainder of the field, I think there are a couple who could run better than their odds suggest. Romanised won a race at Navan in April that has thrown up plenty of subsequent winners including leading Windsor Castle fancy Declarationofpeace. His trainer Ken Condon nominated this race as the target straight afterwards and I think he would be a good deal shorter if he were trained in a yard more associated with juvenile winners. Another two to mention are the Charlie Hills runners Nebo and Red Roman. The former won at Newbury in May, getting the better of John Gosden’s Westerland, who has won since. The latter finished ahead of De Bruyne Horse when fourth at Newmarket on his debut before winning with plenty in hand at the same venue next time. Both need to take a good step forward to figure here but both are lightly-raced and could be open to serious improvement. Advice BROTHER BEAR – 1pt win @ 5/1 (William Hill) 3.40 Ascot – King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1) Two fillies head the market for this Group 1 sprint, which is guaranteed to be run at a furious pace with a number of confirmed front-runners and the fast ground conditions. Heading the market is the American raider Lady Aurelia who was so impressive at the 2016 Royal meeting when demolishing the field in the Group 2 Queen Mary. Trainer Wesley Ward always targets the meeting and said before last year that he was expecting big things from the filly. She did not disappoint on only her second start as she broke quickly under Frankie Dettori and then had far too much speed for rivals. She was still travelling smoothly with a furlong to go and the rest of the field were in trouble. Once Frankie then pushed the button the two-year-old powered clear for a seven lengths success, one of the most visually-taking performance seen at Royal Ascot in recent years. That was also on the daughter of Scat Daddy’s less-favoured soft ground. Lady Aurelia then stepped up to Group 1 level with victory in the Prix Morny at Deauville, again employing the front-running tactics over the extra furlong in trip. She wasn’t as impressive that day but was always in command and the trip was probably far enough for her. Returned to England for the Cheveley Park at Newmarket, she could only finish third but was reported to have bled. In her three-year-old reappearance different tactics were employed in a five and half furlongs Listed race at Keeneland. She settled off the pace but then made smooth headway to win comfortably by two and a half lengths. This showed a different side to Lady Aurelia and that versatility will stand her in good stead for the King’s Stand. She will be hard to beat on Tuesday back to five furlongs and on quick ground. Her biggest threat could come from Sir Mark Prescott’s progressive filly Marsha. She improved through 2016 and her comeback run this year confirmed that she has continued on as a four-year-old. Her three-year-old campaign included successive Listed wins at Ayr and at York in the summer before she improved after two further runs to land the Group 1 Abbaye at Chantilly. This was a career-best as she stayed on well inside the final furlong to get the better of Washington DC (who reopposes on Tuesday) and the top-class Mecca’s Angel. It was a bit of an upset that day but Marsha confirmed that to be no fluke on her first run of 2017 in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes, which had a strong line-up for the grade. She had a penalty so was conceding weight all round which made it a very good performance. The four-year-old was given a patient ride by Luke Morris and travelled smoothly before taking her jockey to the front earlier than he expected. She kept on well though to deny Washington DC by a neck. There are a number of runners from Newmarket taking her on again at Ascot, including the third-placed Goldream and fifth-placed Priceless. Marsha is likely to improve from her first run back, but she may still struggle to match the speed of Lady Aurelia. At the prices, it may be worth taking a chance on the 2015 King’s Stand winner GOLDREAM returning to the high-class level of form that he has shown previously. He enjoyed a fine campaign two years ago, featuring his win at the Royal meeting and then another Group 1 success in the Abbaye. Following on from that he had quiet 2016 where things did not go right from him after a trip to Dubai early in the season. However, he showed that he still retained his ability with a close third in the Group 2 King George Stakes at Goodwood, behind Take Cover and Washington DC. Now as an eight-year-old, the son of Oasis Dream has showed that he’s coming back to form this year. On his reappearance he was not far behind Marsha and then followed that up with a runner-up finish to Priceless in the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock. He was slow at the start that day and was only beaten half a length, so it looks like he is building up for a big run at Ascot. There are not many better than his trainer Robert Cowell with sprinters and he said that GOLDREAM is back in top form. With a strong pace guaranteed and his favoured fast ground, he can make a bold effort to regain the King’s Stand crown. Advice GOLDREAM – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 (SkyBet) (5 places) 4.20 Ascot – St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1) This race has been billed by many as the 2000 Guineas rematch as the first two home Churchill and Barney Roy reoppose. Aidan O’Brien’s winner has done nothing wrong since being beaten on his debut and he is now unbeaten in his last seven starts. He is the sort of horse who only does enough and that is why many observers believe that Richard Hannon’s colt can reverse the form. For what it is worth I think that Barney Roy was a little unlucky in the 2000 Guineas having stumbled coming out of the dip but whether he would have won is another story entirely. The more conventional Ascot track should enable us to get a better idea of what he is capable of and on just his fourth start, he could still be improving. I think in all likelihood that Churchill will confirm the placings from the 2000 Guineas and give his trainer a fifth victory since 2007. However, at 4-6 he doesn’t strike me as a betting proposition. With eight runners, it gives us an opportunity to look for an each-way angle in the race. With that in mind it seems hard to look past THUNDER SNOW who I feel is a little overpriced at 8/1. Saeed Bin Suroor’s colt won in Group 1 company as a two-year-old and won his first two starts this season on the dirt in Meydan. He suffered a likely tack malfunction in Kentucky but put that effort behind him when chasing home Churchill in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Although he has showed he handles soft ground well, he should be fine on this sounder surface. On official ratings, he is the same as Barney Roy and with the fitting of cheekpieces for the first time likely to bring about further improvement, he looks worth a small each-way play in the race. Lancaster Bomber could also have a say in how things pan out and I imagine he will make the running here. He was only beaten one and a half lengths in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and wouldn’t have enjoyed the soft ground at the Curragh last time. He is likely to be a sitting duck in the closing stages but he sees the mile out well and could outrun his sizeable odds. Of the remainder of the field, Rivet is worth a mention having enjoyed his day in the sun when winning the Racing Post Trophy last October. He finished second in the Craven before going to France for their Guineas, where he was beaten three lengths by the winner Brametot. I don’t think he stayed in the Prix Du Jockey Club last time so he should be suited by the drop back to a mile, but at this stage he looks to be a level below the likes of Churchill and Barney Roy. Advice THUNDER SNOW – 0.5pt e/w @ 10/1 (bet365) 5.00 Ascot – Ascot Stakes (A Handicap) It might seem a world away from the Cheltenham Festival but this race has proved very successful with those from the jumping fraternity in recent years. Nine of the last ten winners came from predominantly national hunt yards so I think it is best to focus on those sorts of horses in this year’s race. Willie Mullins saddles the market leader in Thomas Hobson who was formerly trained on the flat by John Gosden. He hasn’t run on the flat since winning at Doncaster off a mark of 97 in October 2013 and has since proved a useful hurdler, winning a Grade 2 in January 2016. His latest success over hurdles came in a handicap at Fairyhouse in April and considering he won that off a mark of 143, he could be well-handicapped on a mark of 100. Ryan Moore has been booked to ride and it isn’t hard to see why he has been so popular in the market. Alan King has a trio of runners at his disposal including Who Dares Wins who was fourth in the Chester Cup the last time we saw him. The five-year-old enjoyed a fruitful campaign over hurdles this winter, winning at Newbury in November as well as finishing third in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. I’m not sure the Chester track played to his strengths last time and he has to be bang there off a 1lb higher mark. King also saddles Oceane who was a staying on second over 2m at Ascot last month. The five-year-old won at York last summer off a mark of 87 and although he has been well-fancied for similar races since then, he has so far failed to deliver. He certainly seemed to appreciate being ridden more patiently last time but others appeal as better handicapped. The King trio is completed by Rainbow Dreamer who relished the step up to 2m2f at Newbury last time. He took advantage of his lower flat handicap mark that day and has earned a 5lb rise for that success. Normally you add 40lb to a horse’s flat handicap mark to get an idea of its hurdles ability and now on a mark of 93, he could still have more to come. King’s assistant was quoted as saying Ryan Moore thought 2m2f was as far as he wanted to go last time which raises some question marks here though. However, the one who appeals most is BEYOND CONCEIT who arguably is the best of these over hurdles. Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old has had his issues in the past but he has been sound this year and having won his first two starts over hurdles, he finished sixth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. 2m was probably on the sharp side for him over hurdles and he proved that to be the case when runner-up over 3m in Grade 1 company at Aintree. He hasn’t raced on the flat since 2013 but his mark of 92 certainly looks on the lenient side. My one slight concern is that the ground might be too quick for him but if he handles it, then he has a big chance. Of those trained in ‘flat’ yards, Magic Circle has to be high on any shortlist having finished just behind Who Dares Wins in the Chester Cup last time. He was placed off this mark at Leopardstown in October and it is interesting that the in-form Silvestre De Sousa has been booked to ride. Mark Johnston’s Yorkidding must also have a chance having finished second in the Chester Cup. She went one better at Haydock last time and has gone up just 1lb for that success. This will be the furthest she has run over but she is a consistent mare who has run well here in the past and it would be no surprise to see her go close. A couple at much bigger prices who could run well include Cleonte who found Group 2 company too hot at Newmarket last time. That was his first start for the Andrew Balding stable but when trained in France, he was a Listed winner over two miles so should appreciate the return to a staying trip. One final one to mention is Star Rider who ran behind Rainbow Dreamer on his return to action in April. He won over 2m in October and could still be competitive off his current mark of 95. His trainer has saddled placed horses in two of the last three renewals so clearly likes to target the race and he could outrun his odds. Advice BEYOND CONCEIT – 1pt e/w @ 8/1 (bet365, Paddy Power) (4 places, 1/4 odds) 5.35 Ascot – Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed Race) The final race on day one sees 24 two-year-olds head to post and the only man to have tasted success more than once in the last decade is American trainer Wesley Ward. Strike The Tiger caused a 33/1 shock in 2009 before Hootenanny followed suit five years later. He saddles two runners this time around, both who come here on the back of wide margin maiden wins. Nootka Sound is likely to be ridden prominently as is often the case with Ward’s juveniles and gets the assistance of Frankie Dettori in the saddle. She is yet to race on turf but impressed in her work on the course last week. Ward’s 2yos are normally more physically forward than their European-based rivals and it would be no surprise to see her go close. The yard is also represented by Elizabeth Darcy who is likely to be ridden more patiently by John Velazquez. She has a European pedigree being by Camacho and cost 88,000 euros when she went through the ring as a yearling. There isn’t a great deal between the pair in the market but this filly has form on the turf already so warrants respect. Aidan O’Brien’s record in this race isn’t as strong as it is in some of the other juvenile contests at this meeting but he looks to have a leading contender here in the shape of Declarationofpeace. The War Front colt was third to Ken Condon’s Romanised on debut but seemed to appreciate the drop back to five furlongs when winning at Dundalk next time. He was being considered for the Coventry but connections have decided to stick to 5f for now with him. His draw in 14 means that Ryan Moore can go wherever he feels is the best place and I think he is the one they all have to beat. Charlie Appleby has enjoyed a fine time of things with his juveniles this term and he saddles two runners here, both of which got off the mark at the first attempt. Sound And Silence won at the Craven meeting and was beaten less than three lengths in the National Stakes at Sandown last time. He didn’t get much cover on that occasion so probably didn’t show his best but this big-field scenario could suit him better. He is also fitted with cheekpieces for the first time and has to come into consideration. Roussel could also run well having got off the mark at the first attempt at Leicester a couple of weeks ago. The Kodiac colt cost £360,000 at the breeze-up sales in April and he was given a nice introduction by William Buick, pushing him out to win in the closing stages. Some of the yard’s first time out winners have not backed it up next time which is a slight concern as is his low draw but he could still go well. One who I think could be overpriced is SIMMY’S COPSHOP who won at Nottingham on his debut and in doing so beat Karl Burke’s Havana Grey who has since gone on to Listed success. Richard Fahey’s colt went over to Ireland next time but having raced towards the head of affairs in a strongly run race, he was run down by more patiently ridden rivals on that occasion. To his credit, when the other leaders dropped away he stuck on well and when you also consider he lost a shoe, there is every reason to think he would have won that race in different circumstances. I think the strength of his form has been overlooked and with the Richard Fahey team in rude health of late, he has to have a leading chance. I expect he could be ridden more patiently than he was last time and I think he is worth an each-way bet at around the 16/1 mark. Two more who I want to mention at bigger prices include Tom Dascombe’s Dragons Tail who was very impressive when winning at Chester last time. He may just have needed the experience on debut at Leicester and certainly knew his job last time. He showed a lot of toe the last day and could be one to lead the stands’ side group. A final one to mention is Excellently Poised who I feel could outrun his sizeable odds of 66/1. Bryan Smart’s colt didn’t enjoy the soft ground at Beverley last time and had he come here on the back of his debut success, I think he would be half the price he is here. His trainer hasn’t enjoyed the ideal preparation with this colt but I think it is interesting that he is turning him out again so quickly. He probably doesn’t have the best of draws in stall 1 and although it will be a big ask, I think he will run considerably better than his odds suggest. Advice SIMMY’S COPSHOP – 0.5pt e/w @ 16/1 (bet365) (4 places, 1/4 odds)
  10. Racing Chat - Saturday (Inc Scoop6)

    1.50 Newbury – Be Wiser Insurance Handicap Chase. The current favourite for the race is Shotavodka for trainer David Pipe. The eleven-year-old arrives here off the back of a good third in a competitive course and distance veterans’ handicap chase. He won the same race the year before and put up a gallant effort to retain his crown. Some of the gelding’s best form throughout his career has been at Newbury and his course record makes him a strong contender in this race. Killala Quay brings strong form to the race having largely competed in higher grades of races than he will be involved in on Saturday. However, he had been struggling this season (pulled up on his first three starts of the campaign) before bouncing back to form at Doncaster last month. The ten-year-old landed a good-quality veteran’s class 2 handicap chase, his debut in this type of race, appreciating the three miles trip as he stayed on strongly in the final stages to get the better of former Grand National runner-up Saint Are by a head. The way he finished the race suggested that the step up in trip here for trainer Charlie Longsdon could suit and he still appears to be well-treated based on previous form, such as winning the Grade 2 Pendil Novices’ Chase in February last year. Another horse who comes here off the back of a win is the Polly Grundy-trained Dawson City. The eight-year-old was getting off the mark over fences here, and his time had been coming having finished second five times. However, he did have some fortune this time as he was a length down in second when the leader fell three fences from home. He capitalized well though, finishing clear by thirty lengths. The distance of his win merits respect, but that was on heavy ground and only two of his rivals managed to complete that day. COOLKING has been in flying form this year, landing a hat-trick since the start of the year. His first win of the three came in January when he was trained by Chris Gordon before switching to the Gary Moore stable. Although the three successes have been in a lower class – two wins in class 4s and a class 3 victory, they have all been in impressive style. The first two were both at Lingfield, on the second occasion winning the class 3 by a wide-margin twenty three lengths. He set a strong pace that day and soon had the rest of the field in trouble. The ten-year-old followed that up with a decisive fourteen lengths success at Plumpton, where the same tactics were employed. Although the recent run of form has come on heavy ground, he has previously won over hurdles on good ground and can continue on his upward curve on Saturday. Other horses who could be involved here include Vieux Lille and Call Me Vic. Firstly, Vieux Lille is the youngest horse in the field for the partnership of Phillip Hobbs and Richard Johnson. The seven-year-old has been consistent this season without winning. However, this includes a third at Exeter to the promising Harry Fry-trained American and also a second place to the tough Yala Enki from the Venetia Williams’ yard. Call Me Vic was a gutsy last time out winner of a class 3 at Aintree and this step back up in trip looks likely to suit. The ten-year-old has to be respected for the Tom George and Adrian Heskin combination. Advice COOLKING – 1pt e/w @ 8/1 (Paddy Power) 2.25 Newbury – Insure With Be Wiser Handicap Chase. The second race at Newbury on Saturday is a 2m4f handicap chase and two horses who look closely matched are Warriors Tale and Gala Ball, with the pair having faced each other over course and distance earlier this month. The former came out on top on that occasion in the hands of Sean Bowen, seeing off his more fancied rival to win with eleven lengths to spare at the line. The runner-up gets a significant pull in the weights following that run and is also fitted with blinkers here in a bid to sharpen up his jumping. Both horses showed a tendency to make the odd jumping error when they met here but if they can hold their jumping together, it is hard to see them being too far away. Robert Walford’s Walk In The Mill has looked an improved performer this term, winning his first two starts this season before going to Cheltenham last time. The seven-year-old might just have found his new mark on the high side on that occasion, although he was still not out of things when making an error at the third last. On the whole, this race looks less competitive than the one he contested at Cheltenham in January but he still needs to prove that his new mark isn’t beyond him. One of the lesser exposed members of the field is Aqua Dude who was narrowly denied a first victory over the larger obstacles at Haydock last month. Evan Williams’ seven-year-old was just touched off by the gallant Captain Redbeard, although it is worth bearing in mind that they were well clear of the third, who has won since. The handicapper has raised this gelding 6lb for that runner-up effort which is likely to make life more difficult but he was highly thought of as a novice hurdler, so you would imagine connections think he is better than a mark of 136. Emma Lavelle saddles an interesting runner in the shape of Casino Markets who won three times last summer, earning him a rise of 22lb in the handicap. However, his latest effort saw him chase home Fox Norton in third in October and whilst he was no match for the winner on the day, that still looks pretty good form. He looks to have been saved for Spring ground since then and as long as Newbury doesn’t get any more rain, he would have to be high on any shortlist. However, I think the one of most interest is O MAONLAI who seems to save his best form for here at Newbury. He won here off a mark of 134 in November and was running well here last time before making a serious jumping error at the cross fence. But for that mistake, I think he would have been right in the mix and with the Tom George team amongst the winners once again, I think he is worth an each-way bet at the prices. Advice O MAONLAI – 1pt e/w @ 15/2 (Betfair Sportsbook) 2.40 Kelso – Edinburgh Gin Handicap Hurdle. Kelso has put up a couple of big pots on Saturday and it looks as though they have been rewarded as this race has attracted a strong field. The weights are headed by SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT, who has his first start since pulling up in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November. Sandy Thomson’s nine-year-old got the better of Bristol De Mai over fences in October and was well-fancied to give Cue Card a race on his latest outing. Things didn’t work out for him on the day and Brian Hughes reported that he was never travelling, so I would be happy to put a line through that run. It is interesting that he starts back over hurdles and having finished third off this mark in the Scottish Grand National last year, you would have to think he is far from handicapped out of it. He should have no trouble handling conditions and although it will be tough to concede weight all around here, I still think he is the one to beat. The veteran Reve De Sivola makes the long trip up to Kelso from Nick Williams’ base in Devon but it has been a while since the twelve-year-old showed some real spark in his races. He won at Haydock last February at Haydock but since then he has been a shadow of his former self, albeit in strong company. The handicapper has dropped him 5lb since running down the field at Exeter last time but even with that drop, I still think there are better options in the race. Venetia Williams saddles a progressive runner in the shape of Eminent Poet who has won three of his last four starts over hurdles. The latest of those victories came at Lingfield earlier this month, where he seemed to relish the testing conditions underfoot, something which should stand him in good stead here. He won over 3m1f at Plumpton back in January so the trip shouldn’t be an issue and the only concern is that he continues to creep up the weights. Without Charlie Deutsch’s claim he is effectively 8lb higher here but he continues to progress and should looks the main danger to our selection. Of the remainder, Lucinda Russell’s Big River chased home a smart performer in the shape of Dadsintrouble last time and gets in here with next to no weight on his back. He has gone up 4lb for that effort but his jockey Blair Campbell takes a valuable 7lb off his back. He won on heavy ground back in December so should have no trouble handling conditions and is one of the less exposed runners in the line-up. The final one to mention is Nicky Richards’ Isaacstown Lad who was a narrow second at Ayr when last seen. The ten-year-old was third in this race last year off a 1lb higher mark and showed signs of a return to form on his most recent outing. He too should handle conditions and can’t be dismissed with any certainty. Advice SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT – 1pt win @ 4/1 (SkyBet, Paddy Power) 3.00 Newbury – EBF & TBA Mares’ ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle Finale (Grade 2). This looks ridiculously competitive, with 8 horses currently priced up between 8/1 and 10/1 at the head of the market – however, the race has some clear trends over the past ten years that help us to narrow our focus. No mare has won the race carrying over 11st 3lb in the last ten renewals, so while the likes of Tara View, Copper Kay, Hitherjacques Lady and Wizards Sliabh look very talented mares with a big chance, they don’t fit the profile that the usual winners of the race seem to throw up and are passed over this time. One who looks very talented is Venetia Williams’ Grand Turina, who was second behind the Supreme Novices Hurdle third, River Wylde, now rated 147, at Ludlow over two miles in January. She’s bolted up since, beating a 120-rated horse by seven lengths, so if that form is true, a mark of 120 looks hugely exploitable. However, she’s always been a very tricky ride with a short fuse, and even though Charlie Deutch clearly gets on well with her, the step up in trip and the quicker ground could expose some of her temperamental issues and jumping quirks. Snow Leopardess heads the market and has always been highly-touted, but her actual performances on the track have left a little to be desired so far – she does seem to lack a change of pace and I feel that her price is more governed by her reputation rather than facts. That being said, a mark of 123 looks fair and she should run well enough for a stable that won this in 2015 with Kalane. Noel Fehily rode Charlie Longsdon’s winner that day, and here he rides Lamanver Odyssey for Harry Fry. Only out of the first three once in her six runs under rules, she’s a consistent, tough mare who should go well off a mark of 119 on this good to soft ground that she’ll surely appreciate. Her second place in heavy ground last time out at Hereford can be marked up given that it was in dire conditions and the return of Fehily to the plate is always a huge positive. Cajun Fiddle has a similar profile to Harry Fry’s runner in that she’s consistent on the whole and has plenty of experience. She was nine lengths behind the useful Verdana Blue (fourth in the Grade 2 Mares’ Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham) on her last run and a mark of 124 looks very fair on that form. However, it looks as if she’s second string for Alan King here as Wayne Hutchinson is aboard Tara View, and the market backs that up as well. Another who looks very feasibly handicapped is RUBY YEATS and it’s through Verdana Blue again that we draw the form line. Three lengths was the difference between the two on her last run at Hereford and that was with a mistake 2 out and under an inexperienced jockey. A mark of 120 looks very generous and I’m certain that Harry Whittington’s mare will run a good race here. The trainer spoke of how she ‘works all over Charlemar’ at home and that horse was rated 135 after running in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle in January. Harry Bannister’s 3lb claim will help as will the step up in trip to two and a half miles, so she’s a confident selection to go well. Advice RUBY YEATS – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 (bet365, SkyBet) (4 places) 3.15 Kelso – Liz Adam Memorial Handicap Chase. Seldom Inn heads the market for what looks to be a competitive handicap chase. The Sandy Thomson-trained nine-year-old has been in fine form over fences this season. He has two wins from four runs this campaign, culminating in a twenty-one lengths victory in a Listed race at Kelso last time out. He had plenty to find on ratings in the race but ran out a convincing winner, having far too much for his rivals as he kept on strongly on the run-in. That win came on heavy ground and the step up in distance here promises to suit with the way that he finished off the race. Another who comes here on the back of a wide-margin success is Baywing, who landed the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby. On only his second start over fences, the eight-year-old showed much improved form from his chase debut as he came right away after the second last to win by twenty-two lengths. He obviously enjoyed the testing conditions and this lightly-race gelding should have more to offer for trainer Nicky Richards. Silver Tassle also come here’s looking for back-to-back victories having bounced back to form at Ayr last time. Micky Hammond’s nine-year-old saw the three mile trip out very strongly on the day and he would have to be considered despite a 6lb rise in the weights. The slight concern would be that he hadn’t shown much form prior to that so he might not be the most solid of horses to follow up. However, one who looks to have plenty going in his favour is YALA ENKI who last got his head in front at Haydock in December. He seems to have struggled off his raised mark on his next two starts including at Doncaster last time, where he seemed to boil over in the preliminaries. Having said that, he should handle the heavy conditions and his trainer is adept at landing these staying chases. The handicapper has cut him a little bit of slack but crucially this looks less competitive than the races he has been contesting and I fancy him to get his head back in front. Advice YALA ENKI – 1pt win @ 4/1 (bet365) 3.35 Newbury – OCSL Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. Juvenile hurdles can be tricky puzzles to solve and the one who sets the standard on official figures at least is Night Of Sin, who has won his last two starts. Nick Williams’ four-year-old really seems to have turned a corner since the New Year and he showed a good attitude to win under a penalty at Warwick last time. He has a tendency to be very keen in his races which could make life difficult for him as he steps up in grade and in a race as competitive as this, I think he is worth taking on. Also towards the head of the weights is Tom Symonds’ DON BERSY who has won his last three starts for connections, including the Victor Ludorum Hurdle at Haydock last month. He starts off life in handicaps on a mark of 132, which I think is fair enough considering his profile. Connections opted to skip the Cheltenham Festival with a view to his development and he looks to have a leading chance in this contest. I suspect he is still somewhat underrated because of the stable from which he hails and I think he is a little overpriced at around the 7/2 mark. There are also a host of unexposed horses in the field, not least Dinsdale who got off the mark at the fourth attempt over hurdles at Newbury last month. It looked as though he would be passed on that occasion but he showed a fine attitude to regain the lead in the closing stages and win with a bit to spare at the line. His trainer believes there is more to come from him and having run so well here last time, it would be no surprise to see him in the shake-up once again tomorrow. Martin Keighley’s Buckle Street must also come into the mix on the back of his Southwell success last time, having gotten the better of his elder rivals in good fashion. He showed some quirks by hanging left in the closing stages and is fitted with cheekpieces here in a bid to iron out those tendencies. At this stage he promises to be a better hurdler than a flat horse and with just four runs under his belt over obstacles, there could still be more to come. One final one to mention is Neil Mulholland’s Hygrove Percy who was campaigned through the summer and already has three wins to his name over hurdles. He shaped well for a long way at Sandown last time but was perhaps just caught out by his lack of a recent run on the day. He should strip fitter for this and he could run better than his odds of around 11/1 suggest. Advice DON BERSY – 1pt win @ 100/30 (bet365) 4.45 Newbury – Goffs UK Spring Sales Bumper. One of the biggest sales bumpers of the season, this race is always very well-attended and with 22 runners this year, 2017’s renewal is no exception. It’s also a race with a pretty clear pattern in terms of the profile of the winner – nine of the last ten winners were four years old and carried no more than 11st 1lb to victory, the only one that didn’t fit this profile was Diamond Harry, who won the race for the second time in a row in 2008, so not a usual winner anyway. That allows us to eliminate all of the first seven on the racecard, who are five-year-olds and therefore carry more than 11st 1lb, including The Last Day, who dead heated with Aye Aye Charlie on his last start and could have more to come, Senatus, who has the services of Graham Lee, favourite Chez Castel Mail, who bolted up last time out, and Pride Of Pemberley, who has run well on both of his starts in hot-looking bumpers. Instead, we’re focusing on the younger, less exposed sorts and an obvious place to start is with Nicky Henderson’s Ligny, who is currently the second favourite on the back of reputation and his powerful stable only. However, Henderson is the only trainer to win this race with an unraced horse in the past 10 years (Gaitway, 2014) so he knows what’s required to do so. This horse is a half-brother to a horse that won this very same race back in 2009, Lidar, trained by Alan King (more on him later) and a couple of half-decent flat horses, so you would think he’s got plenty of ability, but to win this on his racecourse debut could be a tough ask. Bullionaire falls into the same ‘unraced’ camp as Ligny, but Harry Fry’s four-year-old doesn’t have the same pointers in his family as Henderson’s horse. By Gold Well, sire of Holywell, Susalito Sunrise, Johns Spirit etc., and out of a point-winning mare (cut no ice under rules in bumpers, hurdles or chases), he’s a proper National Hunt-bred animal, and they’re the type that tend to do well here. Fry always does well in this type of event, so he has to be respected with Noel Fehily on board. Gary Moore’s Larry was victorious on his racecourse debut at Fontwell, and is another nicely bred National Hunt sort, being by Midnight Legend. He’s a brother to bumper winner Chain Gang and is related to various useful types including Mr Thriller and Gaspara, so you shouldn’t be surprised by the fact he’s already shown himself to be useful. He showed a good temperament on debut to defeat two more experienced rivals and he’ll have progressed from there, but you’d have to think that obstacles will be the making of him and he may just get outpaced by some of the speedier sorts in this, especially under a winners’ penalty. The one that majorly catches my eye is the Alan King-trained HAREFIELD, who was a decent second on his debut at Exeter behind Tom George’s Air Navigator in a race where the well-fancied Irish raider and subsequent Champion Bumper runner Quick Grabim, hung his chance away from the back of the second last. Alan King has won this race three times in the last eight years, with The Unit, Montbazon and Lidar, so clearly thinks that this horse is the right type to win this. HAREFIELD was held up right at the back of that Exter contest in the early stages of the race and, in a race where those who were towards the rear didn’t do particularly well, he powered home strongly to get within a length and a half of the winner in what could work out to be a decent contest. He’ll have learned plenty from that run and this son of Doyen, who cost 25,000 last May, could go really well at a decent price. Advice HAREFIELD – 1pt e/w @ 7/1 (bet365, SkyBet)
  11. Racing Chat - Saturday (Inc Scoop6, ITV7 etc..)

    1.50 Sandown – European Breeders’ Fund Matchbook VIP ‘National Hunt’ Novices Handicap Hurdle Final (Grade 3). This is certainly an extremely difficult race in which to narrow the field down as most look feasibly handicapped, unexposed and capable of winning a race of this nature. The ground will certainly be a key factor, with any novice that has already shown a dislike or has worries on soft ground readily passed over. Despite his excellent record in the race (won two of the last seven renewals), Nicky Henderson has one such horse – top weight Phobiaphiliac, who has raced on soft ground only once over hurdles and was pulled up. The way he dropped out rapidly there was alarming and he’s one to wait for better ground for. Gaitway, also hailing from the stable, is another with worries over a surface that he’s never encountered before and combined with a step up in trip to two and a half miles, for me, makes him one to be very wary of, even though a mark of 126 could well be lenient. Paul Nicholls also has a good record, winning two of the last seven renewals, and his handicappers always have to be respected – especially at this time of the year, when they’re trained to peak. Cash Again looks like he’s been aimed at this race and his efforts after being held up in his two races before this have been encouraging. He clearly has no worries over a soft surface and stays well, while a mark of 121 looks an exploitable one. He could well be well enough handicapped to reverse the Fakenham form with his conqueror on that day, The Mighty Don, with a 9lb swing in the weights in his favour. Nick Gifford’s five-year-old had his own way that day and stole a march on the field, but his jumping was shaky and there will be plenty of competition for the lead here, so it wouldn’t shock me at all if Nicholls’ horse finished in front of that rival. Joining Nick Gifford’s horse towards the top of the weights is the current favourite and impressive winner last time out, Full Irish. Emma Lavelle’s six-year-old made all in pretty nasty conditions at Leicester and put the 136-rated Lazer Light well in his place in receipt of just 6lb. Playing a numbers game, Full Irish’s subsequent of 130 doesn’t handicap him out of things at all, but it may have been that he just handled conditions better than anything else on the day. It won’t be anywhere near as soft here at Sandown Park and he’s unlikely to get his own way up front, so he might be a sitting duck later on in the race and I’m happy to leave him alone at the prices. The second favourite at the time of writing, MINELLA AWARDS, is far more interesting to my eyes. Harry Fry’s six-year-old is very lightly raced, still a maiden and clearly not the easiest to train, but his two-length second behind No Comment (now rated 137) is a very good piece of form in the contest of this race. A mark of 128 could be nowhere near this horse’s true ability and he’s already proved himself over this trip and in these ground conditions. He’ll surely have improved plenty from that first run in a year and just his third over obstacles and I think he’ll be tough to keep out of the frame in a strongly run race in soft ground, which should suit this six-year-old with plenty of stamina in his pedigree. There are lots of other interesting types in the race, for example Lithic, who was a very impressive winner at Huntingdon last time out. Jonjo O’Neill’s string is always fit and firing this time of year so he has to be respected, but this real stamina test may not suit, even though he’s clearly well-treated under a penalty. David Pipe’s Ramses De Teillee is another to note, improving at a steady rate so far over hurdles and he has run creditable races from the front in each of his three efforts so far. However, I’m not sure he’s good enough in company this strong, despite his light weight. Another Venture is a tough type who could go well for Kim Bailey if this turns into a slog, which is likely, but in going up 7lb for his win in a bog here last time, he could be handicapped out of it. One who we don’t know how closely the handicapper has in his grasp is the Nick Williams-trained Man From Mars, who has been held up and run on in every one of his three runs over hurdles so far, each of them decent contests. This step up in trip looks sure to suit and off a mark of 123, he could be nicely handicapped given he was beaten 7l by Burbank on his last run at Huntingdon, who is now rated 134. Lizzie Kelly’s 3lb claim will also help and if you’re looking for a double-figure alternative to the selection, he might be an interesting play min an open race. Advice MINELLA AWARDS – 1pt e/w @ 9/1 (William Hill, Ladbrokes) [4 places] 2.25 Sandown – Better Odds With Matchbook Handicap Chase. When you look at the history of this race, it’s traditionally been won by real staying types who gallop all the way to the line – the likes of Financial Climate, Chartreux, Soll and Mon Parrain have all taken victory here and it wouldn’t surprise me if a similar type joined them. Masters Hill may not have won since February 2015, but he’s been placed over two and a half miles or more five times since and a mark of 137 doesn’t look prohibitive judging on his effort behind Perfect candidate at Exeter last time out. The ground should be fine for Colin Tizzard’s charge, but carrying 12st 1lb in a race this competitive can’t be a great sign, and neither is the fact that stablemate Fourth Act gets the services of stable 1st jockey Paddy Brennan. FOURTH ACT has dropped 3lb in the weights since his excellent pair of fourth places in a Grade 3 handicap chase at Ascot and another Grade 3 at Cheltenham and on that form, it would give him a massive chance in this race. He stays well, handles different ground from heavy to good-to-firm and is a very solid marker for the rest to aim at. It really does surprise me that he’s 8/1 here and if you can forgive his latest run over fences where he never looked right or happy at Ascot in the Listed Silver Cup Chase, he looks handicapped to go in here. FOURTH ACT has had a nice break since a hurdle race at Warwick in January, will appreciate returning to a right-handed track, significantly down in grade, and doesn’t hold any entries at Cheltenham, so can surely get back on the right track with cheekpieces reapplied and run very well here at a price that’s surprisingly big. Another horse who looks well-handicapped is the Jonjo O’Neill trained Upswing – we’ve spoken about how Jonjo’s horses are trained to peak at this time and the shoots of a racing recovery that were seen in this horse’s last run have to be a huge encouragement. He’s been dropped 3lb for finishing beaten by nine lengths by Blameitalonmyroots and Gevrey Chambertin and could build on that effort. However, he’s not one to set your watch by and the form of that race is not very strong at all, so even though a mark of 129 is very tempting, I’ll give him a miss, especially given the cheekpieces might not work as well the second time. The final two horses to mention were both winners last time out, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to shoulder the rise in the weights given to them by the handicapper. Willoughby Hedge stayed on dourly over this C&D last time out to beat the 114-rated King Of Glory and has been raised 8lb for that. The form of the race looks weak and even though he’ll clearly stay around a track he seems to enjoy, it could be too much for this ten-year-old to bear. Shanroe Santos won nicely at Warwick last time out, winning a bit cosier than the half-length margin would suggest, but the 4lb rise won’t make things easy in a much better race than the one he contested last time. He’s got a bit more scope than some others, being an eight-year-old with only five runs over fences to his name, but his three runs over fences off marks of 128, 125 and 125 again were uninspiring to say the least (admittedly after an injury layoff) and this could be a step too far for him. Advice FOURTH ACT – 1pt win @ 8/1 (bet365, William Hill) 3.00 Sandown – Matchbook Imperial Cup (HANDICAP) The strongest trend in this race concerns weight and the cut-off appears to be set at eleven stone. Since Polar Red (11st 1lb) and Korelo (11st 6lb) won in 2002 and 2003 respectively all of the subsequent winners carried less than 11st to victory. Of this year’s field, only five of the field sit on the right side of the trend, the bottom four as they appear on the racecard – Disputed, Darebin, Chieftain’s Choice and Not Another Muddle, as well as Spice Fair, whose jockey’s 7lb claim takes the ten-year-old below the 11st threshold. The trends surrounding the ages of past winners of the Imperial Cup is an intriguing one. The most successful group of runners are those aged six and below who have put their head in front in eight of the last ten renewals. There are only five horses in this year’s renewal who sit outside this particular bracket so that’s a black mark for Kayf Blanco, Gassin Golf, Spice Fair, Disputed and Chieftain’s Choice. Martin Pipe loved nothing more than winning the Imperial Cup, a feat he achieved six times during his career, probably something to do with the fact that the sponsor offered a whopping bonus if the winner followed up at Cheltenham. Pipe senior collected that bonus on three occasions; twice as a trainer and once as an owner. Son David has wasted no time in picking up where his father left off with back-to-back wins in 2007 and 2008. He landed his third success three years ago with Baltimore Rock and saddles Max Do Brazil in this year’s renewal. It is quite remarkable given the ultra-competitive nature of the Imperial Cup that seven of the last thirteen winners had achieved a top two finish on their previous start. It is often the type of race won by progressive sorts although Chieftain’s Choice is the only last time out winner in this year’s field. It is often said that in such competitive races, you need a horse to be battle-hardened to go well but this has actually been a race in which novice hurdlers have done exceptionally well. In fact, they have produced seven of the last ten winners. Despite having most of the field last year, they have only two representatives this time around, London Prize and Not Another Muddle. Despite the competitive nature of the Imperial Cup, those towards the head of the betting market have tended to do well, with the first four in the betting accounting for seven of the last ten winners. Fixe Le Kap currently heads proceedings, with the likes of William H Bonney, London Prize, Gassin Golf and Not Another Muddle in behind, although horses can still switch around at this stage. Shortlist NOT ANOTHER MUDDLE – 5/6 Max Do Brazil – 3/6 London Prize – 3/6 Conclusion All of our field miss at least one of the trends but there is a standout candidate in the shape of NOT ANOTHER MUDDLE. The six-year-old is one of only two novices in the field and has snuck in at the bottom of the weights on 10st 8lb. This is his handicap debut having won two of his three starts in novice hurdles and having been keen last time, the pace at which this race is likely to be run could help him to settle better. The only trend he misses is that he isn’t trained by David Pipe but given Gary Moore’s strike-rate at Sandown in recent seasons, that isn’t too much of a concern. He is open to plenty of improvement on his first start in handicaps and in receipt of weight from all his rivals, he rates a strong selection. Also on the shortlist is Max Do Brazil who is a new recruit to the David Pipe yard, having previously been trained in France by Arnaud Chaille-Chaille. He cost his current connections £160,000 when he went through the sale ring in December and although he was pulled-up on his British debut at Cheltenham in January, he might just have needed the race on his first run since November. As I said earlier, the Pipe team have a fine record in this particular race and if he can leave his last run behind, he shouldn’t be too far away. The final member of the shortlist is London Prize who was travelling well in the Scottish County Hurdle when falling on his most recent hurdles start. The six-year-old has since had a spin on the flat in which he finished second and having had just the four runs over hurdles so far, we probably haven’t seen the best of him yet. He was well-backed at Musselburgh on his handicap debut so clearly plenty is thought of him and it would be no surprise to see him run a big race. Advice NOT ANOTHER MUDDLE – 0.5pt e/w @ 9/1 (SkyBet) 3.35 Sandown – The EBF Stallions/TBA Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed Race) This looks like being a competitive bumper race, with 8 of the 10 runners having won last time out. There are also 4 contenders who boast unbeaten records so far and 2 challengers from across the Irish Sea. Fergal O’Brien’s Cap Soleil is the likely favourite in the race having won both of her starts in bumpers. The only four-year-old in the field, she was sent off evens favourite on debut in December and always travelled smoothly before winning without coming off the bridle. Up in class into Listed company at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, she was again sent off favourite and justified the market support. The filly was given a patient ride by Paddy Brennan before battling well to get the better of the Nicky Henderson-trained Daphne Du Clos. The form has been franked as the runner-up has since landed a Newbury Listed race and Henderson had seen her as a possible Cheltenham Champion Bumper candidate. That race was over 1 mile 6 furlongs so Cap Soleil will have to prove that she stays the extra distance up the Sandown hill. Fergal O’Brien has a strong hand in the race as he also saddles Oscar Rose. Although at a likely bigger price, the five-year-old landed a Listed bumper at Huntingdon in December when last seen. She battled well to open her account at the fourth time of asking, having finished fourth in a Listed race at Cheltenham the time before. However, the mare may find one or two of the less exposed runners too strong here. One of the Irish raiders in the race is the Ms Margaret Mullins-trained Martello Park. Like Oscar Rose, she got off the mark at the fourth time of asking on her previous run but did so in fine style. The five-year-old made all and obviously enjoyed the heavy conditions as she had everything else in trouble a long way from home. She went onto win by an impressive 21 lengths, but she may find it hard to repeat that against stronger opposition and with conditions unlikely to be as testing. It’s interesting that Willie Mullins has sent over REDHOTFILLYPEPPERS, who has a perfect record of 2 from 2. The mare won a Point-to-Point over 3 miles easily by 10 lengths on debut and was then sent off the 4/6 favourite for a Punchestown bumper in December on debut for the Mullins stable. The five-year-old put up a taking performance in the 2 miles 2 furlongs race (soft ground) as she made all, and despite racing keenly, kept on well showing that she must have a good engine. With the greenness that she showed, she has the potential for improvement here. Also, jockey Mr D H Dunsdon could make it a test of stamina as he knows that his mount has won over further, which could make REDHOTFILLYPEPPERS difficult to beat on Saturday. Another unbeaten mare in the race is Petticoat Tails, for the Warren Greatrex yard who has a good record bumpers and who trained The Nipper to win this last year. The mare was sent off a well-backed favourite on both of her starts, winning by 12 lengths on debut and then she was a comfortable odds-on winner at Huntingdon next time. The five-year-old has potential but this is a big step up in grade here. The other last time out winners in the field are Just A Thought, Whatzdjazz and Illwalktheline but they may just find the others at the head of the market too strong up in grade. Advice REDHOTFILLYPEPPERS – 2pts win @ 7/2 (Betway) 3.55 Ayr – The Caledonia Best Handicap Hurdle Race. One horse battling for favouritism in this competitive handicap hurdle is Desert Cry, trained by Donald McCain. The eleven-year-old has been in fine form this season as he gained back-to-back victories, including at the course in January off top weight. Last time out he was upped in class in the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Cheltenham where he finished fourth in a strong race won by Zarkandar. In the form that Desert Cry is in, he is difficult to dismiss here despite at the top of the handicap. Another at the head of the market is One For Harry who has only had the three runs so far this season. He built on his reappearance when winning over 2 miles 3 and half furlongs at Wetherby in January, staying on well to land the Class 3. The nine-year-old was up in class at Kelso last time where he finished second to the Malcolm Jefferson-trained Cyrus Darius, who Jefferson views as a Cheltenham Champion Hurdle contender. That was on heavy and he also has previous winning form on the ground so won’t mind the conditions here. TOMKEVI was an impressive winner at Sedgefield on his previous run, held up before staying on well on the heavy ground. He ran out a 14 lengths winner. The six-year-old has been rejuvenated since the application of cheekpieces, which he had worn earlier in his career when trained in France. He has gone up in the handidcap, but still carries a low weight here and is on a workable mark based on last season’s form, when he had gained two victories in a row. This included success against the now Grade 2 chase winner Forest Bihan. TOMKEVI could match last season and make it back-to-back wins here for trainer Rebbeca Menzies. Other contenders include the Phillip Kirby-trained Sakhee’s City and Maxie T for Micky Hammond. The former was third in a Class 3 at Market Rasen over 2 miles and half a furlong at Market Rasen last time. However, he may struggle back up in distance and with the testing conditions here. Maxie T was third in a Class 3 at Kelso last time out on heavy ground and prior to that was fourth to the progressive Dadsintrouble at Haydock. He will enjoy the conditions on Saturday but may find a couple too strong here. Advice TOMKEVI – 1pt win @ 4/1 (William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral, Betfair)
  12. My Ante-post Diary

    Thank you very much .. I will update the results after the festival
  13. My Ante-post Diary

    MY ANTE-POST DIARY - 2016/2017 PART 15 My final ante-post diary update ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. I had planned to do some updates throughout the week of the Festival but I will be putting a few bets up here and I am content that those bets will be good enough to take us through the week. I will then do a debrief the Tuesday after the meeting to reflect on how we have fared. Looking ahead to next week, the going on the first day of the Festival is always a source of some discussion and Simon Claisse described the ground as ‘good to soft’ this week. However, there is plenty of rain forecast between now and the start of the Festival, so there has to be a chance that the meeting will start on soft ground. That would be an interesting turn of events considering that most of the time spent talking about the Festival often involves horses being suited by a sounder surface, although it is worth saying that I don’t think it will be very soft. Champion Hurdle Considering our position on Moon Racer in the Champion Hurdle, it has been encouraging to see money for David Pipe’s gelding for this race in the last few days. Having advised him at 20/1 a few weeks ago, he is now just 10/1 with the same firm and has drifted on Betfair for his alternative race, the Supreme. Despite not having seen him since Cheltenham in November, I am still confident that he has a strong chance in what looks a weaker renewal of the Champion Hurdle than we have been used to in recent years. The form of that Cheltenham win has been given a good boost since and the fact that he has only been beaten once in his life underlines just how much ability he has. David Pipe has said that he will be left in both races at the five-day stage before making a decision at declaration time but at this stage, I would be surprised if he went down the novice route. One who looks less likely to line up in the Champion Hurdle is Tombstone whose connections are likely to be tempted to run him in one of the handicaps. Considering the number of Irish connections who have bemoaned their treatment by the British handicapper, this one’s mark seems to have deterred the Gigginstown team from supplementing the seven-year-old. He holds entries in both the Coral Cup and the County Hurdle. Stayers Hurdle In the staying hurdle division, there is little doubt that Unowhatimeanharry will be sent off favourite for this race as he is currently as short as Evens for the race. However, following the injury to Barry Geraghty, it is now unclear who will pick up the ride on the all-conquering nine-year-old. Personally, I suspect that Noel Fehily will pick up the ride having ridden him for most of last season and he has also picked up a couple of spare rides for JP McManus already this term. In terms of my selection Jezki, it has been confirmed that Mark Walsh will take the ride on him in the Stayers, which is a welcome relief following a few months of uncertainty about his potential target. I think he has all the ability to pose a serious challenge to the favourite and if the ground is good, I think he can run a big race for us. Looking at market support in recent days, Shaneshill has attracted some money at around the 8/1 mark. He was a close second in the RSA at last year’s Festival but his last two runs over hurdles have suggested he can be a force in this contest. He took a crashing fall when still in contention at Leopardstown over Christmas but made amends at Gowran last time when getting the better of Snow Falcon. He seems pretty versatile in terms of ground and I can see why he has attracted support. Gold Cup Nothing much to report just over a week out from the Gold Cup but Djakadam did please in a schooling session after racing at Leopardstown on Sunday. The eight-year-old was neat at his fences and considering that he has had his fair share of jumping problems in the past, it was good to see him jump without alarm. He has enjoyed a much smoother preparation for this year’s Gold Cup than he did last year and if he can reproduce either of his two previous runs in the Gold Cup, it is hard to see him being too far away at the final fence. Jonjo O’Neill is likely to saddle two with outside chances in the shape of Minella Rocco and More Of That, although he does concede that Native River is the one to beat. The former could wear cheekpieces in the Gold Cup in an attempt to get him to concentrate and it is worth bearing in mind that he beat Native River at last year’s Festival. The latter ran his best race for some time at Leopardstown last month before unseating at the final fence and if he can reproduce that sort of form, then he would have an outside squeak. Novice Hurdlers Supreme It has been interesting to read some of the reports from the preview evenings in recent days and a common theme has been that people are keen to oppose the favourite Melon. Gordon Elliott was keen to point out that the horse he beat at Leopardstown was only rated 110 in Ireland and that the winner would have to improve a good deal to justify his general 4/1 price. He is clearly priced up on his connections and the visual impression that he created that day and I am inclined to agree that he is worth taking on at the current prices. Looking at what else might line up in the Festival opener, it seems that this is the Festival target for the Betfair Hurdle winner Ballyandy. Nigel Twiston-Davies had been weighing up a possible tilt at the Neptune (which he won with The New One) but given the way he travelled and quickened away at Newbury, his trainer believes this will be the more suitable race. Personally, I thought he might go down the Neptune route as he didn’t seem to do anything too quickly on his first few starts over hurdles and he was outpaced coming down the hill before staying on up the hill. I can see him running a similar race in the Supreme and perhaps running into a place up the hill. In terms of the market, the one with a sea of blue on the oddschecker board beside him is Neon Wolf who is now as short as 4/1 in some places for the Supreme. This might be due to the forecast of potential soft ground on the first day of the meeting but there is no doubt that Elgin did the form little harm at Kempton a couple of weeks ago. His trainer Harry Fry has said that he will leave the horse in both the Supreme and the Neptune and has also mentioned potentially missing the Festival, but with the rain forecast it is hard to see him not lining up and he certainly has plenty of ability. Neptune Trainer Ben Pauling has a nice bunch of novice hurdlers in the yard and he looks likely to be represented in this race by Warwick winner Willoughby Court. Pauling still has the option of running the six-year-old in the Albert Bartlett but is a little concerned that could be a tough test for a horse with such little experience. He was very impressive at Warwick last time and the form has been franked with Gayebury winning since and another of the beaten horses Peregrine Run is a leading fancy for the Coral Cup at the Festival. I suspect he might come up short at the Festival as the Neptune looks a hot race but he likes every inch a chaser in the making. Last week also saw the return of another smart inmate from the Pauling stable in the shape of Le Breuil who ran out a ready winner at Newbury on Friday. Not seen since winning a novice hurdle at Sedgefield in the autumn, he found plenty in the closing stages to see off the well-supported Benatar by nine lengths. A feature of the five-year-old’s performances to date have been how quick he jumps and whilst Cheltenham is likely to come too soon, he looks likely to pick up a nice prize before the end of the season, perhaps at Aintree or Punchestown. Triumph Defi Du Seuil is a warm order for the opening race on Friday but I can’t help but think that given how well he has handled soft ground this season, whether he will be able to reproduce the same sort of form on a sounder surface. If the ground did come up on the quicker side then I think the race has a wide open look to it and I certainly wouldn’t be too keen to take 7/4 about the market leader. Nicky Henderson looks likely to have a few in the race, led by Charli Parcs, who as I reported last week, has come out of his run at Kempton really well. His work has been good since the fall and given how highly Henderson spoke of him before that run, I think he can still be a force in the Triumph. He is also likely to be joined by Soldier in Action who jumped a lot better when getting off the mark at the second attempt over hurdles at Doncaster last time. Rated 105 on the flat, he certainly has the potential to make up into a smart hurdler, but he might just come up short on experience this time around. In truth, I think this could be a race in which we get a big-priced winner and it is therefore interesting that connections have indicated that Dandy Mag is likely to take his chance. The half-brother to Vroum Vroum Mag had no trouble getting off the mark at Gowran last month but I think the general 25/1 price is a fair reflection of his chances. Novice Chasers Arkle There was some bad news for us over the weekend as Kim Bailey confirmed that Charbel will take his chance in the Arkle rather than the JLT on Thursday. Bailey had previously said that he was keen to avoid Altior but is worried that the six-year-old hasn’t been beyond two miles and is not keen to experiment at the Festival. It is a disappointing turn of events for us as he was as short as 10/1 for the JLT in a race which I thought he had a leading chance. He has already come up short against Altior on more than one occasion and I find it hard to see him reversing the form with that rival. It also seems that Cloudy Dream is also going to line up in the Arkle as Malcolm Jefferson confirmed he is likely to have three runners on the first day of the Festival. That seems to rule out a potential crack at the Grand Annual but at least we have the NRNB concession to fall back on with this bet. Willie Mullins has won the last two renewals of the race and although leading hope Min will not be taking part, the yard are likely to be represented by Royal Caviar who schooled well alongside Djakadam at Leopardstown on Sunday. He seemed none the worse for his fall at the same venue at the end of January and could have an outside chance of a place in a race where there isn’t much depth outside the market leader. JLT All eyes were on the ante-post favourite for the JLT Yorkhill as the seven-year-old schooled at Leopardstown alongside Arbre De Vie and Blazer. Ruby Walsh was at pains to settle the gelding behind his stablemates but he hit the first fence pretty hard before taking off a mile before the second fence. He did settle down after that and jumped neatly before cantering for a couple of furlongs to the winning post. There is no doubt that he has plenty of natural ability but there are still question marks about his jumping so he looks a favourite that could be worth taking on. His trainer Willie Mullins is likely to give the seven-year-old another schooling session prior to the Festival to get him right but I think he will be one of the favourites that punters try to take on at the Festival. Meanwhile Noel Meade confirmed on Sunday that his leading Festival hope Disko was in good order. It seems that connections are leaning towards the JLT ahead of the RSA and Meade said he ‘couldn’t be happier’ with the six-year-old. He also reported that leading National Hunt Chase hope A Genie In Abottle was also in rude health ahead of his crack at the opening day of the Festival. RSA Coney Island was ruled out of the Festival last week and also likely to miss the race is Bellshill who fell in a schooling session at Leopardstown on Sunday. Normally when that happens, Willie Mullins gets the jockey to jump back on and pop over a couple of fences but he said that the gelding was a little stiff afterwards so they decided not to take any chances. Following this latest setback, you would have to say he is less likely than ever to head to Cheltenham and if all is well with the seven-year-old, he could come over for Aintree or wait for Punchestown. One who will be lining up in the RSA is Our Kaempfer who also has the option of the Ultima Handicap Chase on the opening day of the meeting. However, following his victory at Kempton last month, his trainer doesn’t believe he is sufficiently well-handicapped so is likely to go down the novice route instead. His jumping was much better at Kempton last time but he was third on his only start in a Graded chase earlier in the season and whilst the step up to 3m seems to have brought about improvement, I still think he has a bit to find with the market principals in this race. I mentioned earlier how people had been keen to take on Melon on the preview evening circuit and another who people have been keen to oppose is Might Bite. The eight-year-old took a crashing fall when much the best in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton over Christmas and we didn’t learn a great deal when he ran out a wide-margin winner at Doncaster last time. He is as short as 2/1 in places for the RSA which does look short for a horse who has had jumping issues in the past and I can see why people are keen to take him on. He could be joined in the race by stablemate Whisper who has enjoyed something of a resurgence this term, winning his last two starts over the larger obstacles. His stamina has proved the difference on both of those occasions and although both those victories came over 2m5f, I see no reason why he won’t relish the step up to 3m. My main concern would be that the two horses he has beaten, Baron Alco and Clan Des Obeaux are hardly leading novices, so perhaps the form isn’t that strong. With rain forecast for the next week or so, it seems more likely that American could take his chance following his victory at Warwick in January. The seven-year-old has looked a natural over fences so far but he isn’t the easiest to keep sound and his trainer Harry Fry has indicated he would only run if there was soft in the going description. The way he jumped and travelled at Warwick seem to suggest that he would be a leading contender for the RSA if he lined up on the day but the conditions would need to be right for him. Misc Races Cross-Country Enda Bolger, who is widely-regarded as the leading trainer in this sphere is likely to be triple handed in the Festival race as he saddles Cantlow, Auvergnat and Colour Squadron. The first named of those is currently the market leader despite suffering defeat at Cheltenham on Trials Day. However it is worth bearing in mind that he was conceding over a stone to the French challenger Urgent De Gregaine on that occasion but come the Festival, the pair will be racing off level weights. Auvergnat was still travelling well when unseating six fences from home in that race and has since gone on to win at Punchestown. There is another JP McManus name to throw into the mix in the shape of Cause Of Causes who has been the subject of market support in recent days. Now around a 6/1 shot for the race, the nine-year-old has won at the last two Festivals but he was far from fluent over the cross-country fences at Cheltenham in January. I am sure he has had plenty of practice in the interim but I would have liked to see a bit more in January to be taking 6/1. However, I think that there could be a bit of value in this market in the shape of Usuel Smurfer who is a general 16/1 shot for the Cross-Country. The nine-year-old was a smart chaser for Shark Hanlon and defied an absence of over a year to finish a close second to On His Own in a point-to-point in January. He had his first start in the Cross-Country sphere at Punchestown at the beginning of February and he ran a fine race to finish second to Auvergnat, beaten just over a length at the line. He was conceding 7lb to the winner that day before you take the winner’s rider into account and with that cross-country experience under his belt I think he can run well at the Festival. He will get a pull in the weights with Auvergnat at Cheltenham and having run so well over the cross-country fences at the first attempt last time, I think he has an each-way chance. Bumper The bumper isn’t the easiest race to get a handle on as a lot of the time, the form lines tend not to overlap. Willie Mullins has already had one leading hope ruled out in the shape of Getabird but he could have an able deputy in Carter McKay who has made no mistake on his first two bumper starts. He saw off a smart performer in West Coast Time at Naas last time but the time of that race was slow and I think his dominance may have been exaggerated by the way the race was run. It is also worth noting that whilst Willie Mullins has a good record in the race, it is often not the most fancied who fares best, so you won’t see me taking 3/1. On this side of the Irish Sea, the form of the Newbury bumper a couple of weeks ago in which Daphne Du Clos got the better of Western Ryder is probably about the best form on offer. However, Nicky Henderson’s filly has been ruled out of the Festival with a slight problem The runner-up Western Ryder won a valuable bumper at Ascot in December and lost little in defeat behind Daphne Du Clos last time. The pace was steady last time which probably didn’t suit Warren Greatrex’s five-year-old and the stronger pace and the stiff finish at Cheltenham may play more to his strengths. He gets a 6lb pull with Nicky Henderson’s filly in the Festival bumper so may be able to close the gap on that rival. One of the more interesting entries in the race is David Pipe’s Delirant who has yet to run in Britain but already has two bumper wins to his name in France. The latest of those saw him win a Grade 1 bumper at Saint-Cloud in good style, although that was over 1m4f. He has had a number of entries in recent weeks without taking any up and in a recent stable tour, David Pipe said he wasn’t sure if he would go to the Festival. His form is hard to weigh up but he is clearly interesting, in receipt of the four-year-old allowance. I do however prefer the chances of Jessica Harrington’s Someday who overcame a lengthy absence to win a bumper at Leopardstown last month. The five-year-old might have won with a bit more in hand but for jinking at the big screen in the closing stages and although he isn’t flashy, I think he can take a good step forward from that run. He was a close second to Cilaos Emery at last season’s Punchestown Festival and given how that horse has performed subsequently, he clearly has plenty of ability. Horse who began their careers in Ireland have taken all but two of the last sixteen renewals of this race and second season bumper horses have won four of the last five renewals. Jessica Harrington is no stranger to success in this race having won it with Cork All Star in 2007 and if he takes his chance, I think he could run a big race. Handicaps Since the weights have come out, I have had a look through all of the handicaps and whilst I won’t be analysing each of the races, there are a number of horses who stood out to me in different races which I have detailed below. Ultima In the first handicap of the meeting, the first one which caught the eye was The Druids Nephew who won this race two years ago and runs here off a similar mark this time around. He ran a couple of good races last term, most notably in the Grimthorpe Chase behind The Last Samuri and the bet365 Gold at Sandown in April but has been given some slack by the handicapper since then. I wouldn’t be too concerned by his modest showing at Ascot in December as he tends to need his first run of the season. His trainer has already proved himself to be a fine target trainer and he was pretty bullish when speaking about this horse at a recent media day. “He won the race off 146 two years ago and is back off 146. We think he’s every bit as good, if not better, and he’s in great form,” he said. He clearly has a chance on his old form and I think he is definitely one to keep on side. Another who I thought was interesting at the weights was Martello Tower although it is worth noting that he has a few entries and he is far from certain to take this engagement up. Former Festival winners have a good record in this race as do novices and he has been tried pretty highly so far over the larger obstacles. He was fourth in Grade 1 company over Christmas behind the likes of Our Duke, Coney Island and Disko and I think a mark of 144 is workable. It is worth highlighting that is some 6lb below his hurdles mark and with the rain forecast in the next week, he could get the safe ground that he is after. He could well head elsewhere but I think he has a chance at the weights and is worth a small each-way bet with the NRNB concession. Coral Cup The Coral Cup is one of the most competitive races of the week but one man with a better record than most is Gordon Elliott who has won two of the last six renewals. He has a number of potential candidates for this race but in Automated, he looks to have a very good chance. The six-year-old won a valuable handicap at Navan in December for which he went up 10lb and he has been given an extra few pounds by the British handicapper. However, there are a number of patterns going in his favour, nine of the last 14 winners had won their previous start, 10 of the last 11 winners came from the first seven in the market and none of the last 12 winners had run in the last 31 days. He has clearly been laid out for this race following his Navan success and I think he has a leading chance for a yard who have already had a number of high-profile handicap successes this term. Another Gordon Elliott horse who I thought was interesting if running in any of the handicaps at the meeting is Brelade, who has entries in the Coral Cup, County and Martin Pipe as well as the Neptune. The five-year-old was second in Grade 1 company at Leopardstown on Boxing Day and was also placed in Grade 1 company in the Deloitte last time. On both of those occasions he wasn’t beaten too far and his handicap mark looks fair enough on what he has done so far. He could miss the Festival entirely but I think he is worth sticking in your tracker and backing if he does take his chance in one of the handicaps. Brown Advisory Plate In the Plate, there is no doubt that David Pipe and Venetia Williams are the trainers to follow having won six of the last ten winners between them. Both have a number of entries in at the moment so final declarations could be crucial but there are a couple who deserve a mention. In the Pipe team, I think that Starchitect could be the most interesting having won one of his first three starts over the larger obstacles. His jumping has improved with each of his three runs to date and having run behind the likes of A Hare Breath and Baron Alco on his first two starts, he was far from disgraced. He had plenty in hand at Ayr last time but he has been running on soft ground all winter and his hurdles form suggests that he will improve for a sounder surface. The blinkers that he has worn over hurdles and on the flat have also been absent of late and most importantly, his chase mark is currently 7lb lower than his hurdles mark. He won over 2m5f over hurdles in May so I think he is worth trying at this trip and he looks the most likely of the Pipe entries. He is also towards the head of the market for the Grand Annual for which he would be interesting for the same reason, but I think he is worth an each-way bet here with the NRNB concession. I mentioned earlier that Gordon Elliott was a man worth following in handicaps and it appears the vibes about Diamond King in this race are pretty strong. He has been highly touted by both Elliott and Davy Russell at recent preview evenings and having won the Coral Cup at last year’s Festival, it is easy to see why he has attracted interest in the market. One final one to mention is Colin Tizzard’s Sizing Codelco whose trainer believes has a leading chance in this contest. The eight-year-old ran well behind Top Notch in a Graduation Chase at Ascot in December and his trainer believes he just failed to stay the trip over 3m 2f last time. He has been dropped a couple of pounds for that run but he shaped well for a long way and if it was the trip that beat him, he would have to come into the mix back in trip. Bets THE DRUIDS NEPHEW (Ultima) – 1pt e/w @ 12/1 NRNB (bet365) (4 places) As I mentioned earlier, I think in terms of the handicap mark on his old form I think he has a leading chance in the Ultima. His trainer is a fine target trainer and I think he has a good each-way chance in the opening handicap of the Festival. MARTELLO TOWER (Ultima) – 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 NRNB (Skybet) (4 places) This one is a little bit more speculative in that I haven’t heard his trainer mention this as a target but he was given an entry and I think following the weights being published, his connections could be tempted. He is potentially well-handicapped on his hurdles form and with the chance of rain in the next week, I think he is worth a small bet at around the 20/1 mark. AUTOMATED (Coral Cup) – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 NRNB (bet365) (4 places) Gordon Elliott has the potential to have his best Festival yet and I think this is likely to be one of his leading hopes for the Coral Cup on Wednesday. Despite his rise in the weights for his win at Navan before Christmas, he could still have a bit in hand on the handicapper and I think he has been laid out for this race. USUEL SMURFER (Cross Country) – 0.5pt e/w @ 16/1 NRNB (SkyBet) Alan Fleming’s nine-year-old made a fine start to his cross country career when second to Auvergnat at Punchestown and the conditions of the Cheltenham race mean that he gets a pull in the weights with that rival. A pretty smart handicap chaser in the not too distant past, he looked a natural over the cross-country fences and in the absence of a real stand out in this year’s renewal, I think he could run well at a big price. SOMEDAY (Bumper) – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 NRNB (Ladbrokes, Coral) Much like the Cross Country race, there doesn’t look to be a real standout performer in the bumper division and for all the favourite has been impressive on his first two starts, I think he is short enough. Jessica Harrington has won the race in the past and I don’t think we have seen the best of Someday yet, who won at Leopardstown last time. There were a few fancied horses in that race and having chased home another smart performer in Cilaos Emery last Spring, I think he can take a big step forward from his reappearance and run well. STARCHITECT (Brown Advisory Plate) – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 NRNB (bet365) (4 places) The final advised bet is David Pipe’s novice in the Brown Advisory Plate who has the potential to leave his current chase form behind now stepping into handicap company. He does have the option of also running in the Grand Annual but the Pipe yard have a good record in this race and this well-handicapped six-year-old looks worth an each-way bet at the prices. Ante-Post Portfolio JEZKI (Stayers Hurdle) – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 (bet365, Betfred) CHARBEL (JLT Novices’ Chase) – 0.5pt e/w @ 33/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook) (likely non-runner) CILAOS EMERY (Supreme Novices) – 1pt e/w @ 12/1 NRNB (Sky Bet) NATIVE RIVER (Gold Cup) –1pt e/w @ 9/1 (Betway) WHOLESTONE (Albert Bartlett) – 1pt e/w @ 16/1 (bet365, SkyBet) MOON RACER (Champion Hurdle) – 1pt e/w @ 20/1 NRNB (bet365) KOTKIKOVA (Mares Hurdle) – 0.5pt e/w @ 16/1 (BetVictor, Paddy Power) (likely non-runner) SUB LIEUTENANT (Ryanair Chase) – 0.5pt e/w @ 14/1 NRNB (bet365) BARNEY DWAN (Pertemps Final) – 0.5pt e/w @ 33/1 (bet365, SkyBet) (4 places) FOREST BIHAN (Arkle) – 0.5pt e/w @ 25/1 NRNB (bet365, SkyBet) CHAMPERS ON ICE (National Hunt Chase) – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 NRNB (bet365, SkyBet) MESSIRE DES OBEAUX (Neptune) – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 NRNB (bet365) DISKO (RSA Chase) – 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 (Betfred, Ladbrokes, Coral) (likely non-runner) DINARIA DES OBEAUX (Triumph) – 1pt e/w @ 8/1 NRNB (bet365, SkyBet) (likely non-runner) SOUTHFIELD ROYALE (Kim Muir) – 1pt e/w @ 16/1 NRNB (bet365) (4 places) CLOUDY DREAM (Grand Annual) – 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 NRNB (SkyBet) (4 places) (likely non-runner) DIVIN BERE (Fred Winter) – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 NRNB (Paddy Power, SkyBet) (4 places) THE DRUIDS NEPHEW (Ultima) – 1pt e/w @ 12/1 NRNB (bet365) (4 places) MARTELLO TOWER (Ultima) – 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 NRNB (Skybet) (4 places) AUTOMATED (Coral Cup) – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 NRNB (bet365) (4 places) USUEL SMURFER (Cross Country) – 0.5pt e/w @ 16/1 NRNB (SkyBet) SOMEDAY (Bumper) – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 NRNB (Ladbrokes, Coral) STARCHITECT (Brown Advisory Plate) – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 NRNB (bet365) (4 places)
  14. Racing Chat - Friday

    Newbury (2.40) BENATAR bids to get back to winning ways for the Gary Moore team. The five-year-old was far from disgraced when upped to Listed level at Huntingdon last time and the step back into normal novice company should pose a slightly easier task. The way he won on his debut at Fontwell suggested that he was a smart performer but he was keen again last time and will need to curb that enthusiasm if he is to realise his full potential. He faces a tough rival in the shape of Ben Pauling’s Le Breuil who won at Sedgefield in November and is highly admired by his trainer. He is unsurprisingly the short-priced favourite but he is returning from an absence of 115 days so perhaps our horse will have fitness on his side. They are two unexposed horses with bright futures ahead of them and I suggest a small win bet on our horse at around the 3/1 mark BENATAR – 1pt win @ 3/1 (bet365, Paddy Power
  15. My Ante-post Diary

    MY ANTE-POST DIARY - 2016/2017 PART 14 There are now only a couple of weeks until the start of the biggest event in the National Hunt racing calendar and the anticipation is starting to crank up now. I think we have room for a few more bets in the antepost portfolio and the handicaps are certainly an area that we can focus on. However, I think it is worth waiting another week as the weights are set to be published on Wednesday, so that should help make the picture a little clearer before adding in that area. There are also a few races whose initial entry stage closed at noon today namely the Cross Country, Champion Bumper, Mares’ Novice and Foxhunters’. Champion Hurdle There seems to be little doubt amongst the racing public that this year’s Champion Hurdle is the most open for some time and you only have to look at the betting market to see there are eight horses at single figure prices with most firms. It is therefore little surprise that having lost both Faugheen and Annie Power from his Champion Hurdle team, owner Rich Ricci is considering supplementing Limini for the race following her winning return last week. Despite being off the track since running at Punchestown in April, the six-year-old had little trouble seeing of a race-fit rival in the shape of Apple’s Jade and given the allowance she will receive in the Champion, it is easy to see why connections are considering that option. Personally, I would point to how far she was beaten by Buveur D’Air and Petit Mouchoir last Spring and whilst she might have improved, she would need to take another big step forward to be considered a viable contender for the race, even if it is a below-par renewal. Another more likely to be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle is Tombstone who got the better of Jezki on his latest run at Gowran Park. He has only had the seven runs over hurdles to date but most of his best form including his two wins have come on ground with heavy in the description. He did finish fourth in the Supreme last year behind Altior but was a good way behind Buveur D’Air on that occasion and unless the ground came up soft, I find it hard to see him giving the main protagonists anything to worry about. Another dilemma facing the connections of some of the runners are jockey bookings as Barry Geraghty was ruled out of the Festival on Sunday, following a fall at Kempton on Saturday. Mark Walsh is JP McManus’ number two jockey in Ireland but whether he will deputise for Barry on all the leading fancies remains to be seen. Personally, I suspect that Noel Fehily could pick up the ride on Buveur D’Air having ridden him all last season, although Aidan Coleman partnered the six-year-old on both his chase starts. This is not a problem exclusive to the Champion Hurdle though and it will be interesting to see who picks up the rides in Barry’s absence. Champion Chase If the Champion Hurdle is wide open then one of the least competitive races of the meeting is likely to be the Champion Chase where Douvan looks to be head and shoulders above his rivals. Willie Mullins’ all-conquering seven-year-old is 1/4 with a number of firms and to be honest it is hard to see any potential weaknesses in his armour. One familiar face who is reported to be in excellent form by his trainer is Special Tiara who has been placed in the last two renewals of the Champion Chase. The now ten-year-old has always been considered a good ground performer so it was no surprise to see him run a little disappointingly at Cheltenham in November and again on Trials Day in January. He got his ground at Kempton when he got the better of Sir Valentino but his jockey mentioned that he was probably better over a stiffer 2m these days. His trainer backed that opinion up when speaking in recent days and is confident he can put up a bold show if the conditions are in his favour at the Festival. I find it hard to see him beating Douvan but other than Douvan, I don’t think there is much depth to the field and he could be worth a second look at a big price. Gold Cup Having been rocked by the news that Thistlecrack would miss the race last week I was surprised to read reports of the gelding being backed on Betfair for the race on Sunday evening. The source of this market move appears to have been comments from Colin Tizzard suggesting that the nine-year-old would have another scan of the problem leg on Tuesday. It was reported that the heat in his leg had gone away and the swelling had gone down but a scan was scheduled to get a better idea of the injury. Tizzard confirmed last night that “as far as I’m concerned he’s still out” although he did say “we live in an uncertain world but he’s 99% out.” In light of the favourite’s absence, Native River assumed favouritism with most firms, although in recent days, a number of firms have installed his stablemate Cue Card at the head of the market. Clearly there is the element of the unknown with both horses with a view to the Gold Cup but whilst Cue Card was impressive at Ascot a couple of weeks ago, I can’t help but think about his fall in the race last year and if it turns into a duel up the hill, I would still prefer to have the younger legs and proven stamina of Native River on our side. In terms of our ante-post bet I think we are in a strong position and all being well I find it hard to see him finishing out of the frame. Novice Hurdlers Supreme Nicky Henderson continued his fine record in the Dovecote on Saturday as River Wylde landed the spoils and he may have booked his place in the Supreme following his success. The six-year-old won two novice hurdles at Ludlow before running at Kempton on Saturday and having jumped the final flight better than his rival Elgin, he raced away to win by three and a half lengths. He is clearly improving all the time and Anthony Bromley suggested last night that this horse would head to the Supreme, whilst Lough Derg Spirit (same owners) might wait for Aintree instead. Henderson has a couple of other potential Supreme runners such as Beyond Conceit and Charli Parcs but this is now the shortest in the market at a general 14/1. Much was made of the Betfair drift on Melon at the weekend but Willie Mullins confirmed that all was well with the five-year-old. He also described the gelding as a natural jumper and seemed to suggest that Ruby had a fairly easy decision when he chooses which one to ride. He could have three of his stablemates lining up alongside him as Mullins nominated Bunk Off Early, Crack Mome and Cilaos Emery as potentials for the race. Of the latter two, he said: “I think Crack Mome and Cilaos Emery have good enough form to place or even win it if things go right. We think a bit of both. They have had two runs each and all these horses are going to improve.” That is encouraging news for us as I thought our chances of Cilaos Emery running in the Supreme were pretty slim last week but if he lines up, he could still run a big race on just his third start over hurdles. Neptune At the head of the market, Neon Wolf has displaced Finians Oscar at the head of the market suggesting that there is real momentum building behind Harry Fry’s horse. The form of his Haydock win was not disgraced when Elgin finished a good second in the Dovecote on Saturday and might have finished even closer to the winner with a better jump at the final flight. Only last week Fry reiterated that no decision about his Cheltenham target had been made and that the ground would have to be suitable for him to take his chance. Of the pair, at this stage I would prefer to be with Finians Oscar as I think the ground is likely to be more suitable for him at the meeting. Another who has shortened up in recent days is Bacardys who Willie Mullins confirmed is on course for the Neptune despite also holding an entry in the Albert Bartlett. The six-year-old was third in the Champion Bumper last March before going on to land the Bumper at Aintree and since falling on his hurdling debut in November, he has won twice since. His trainer confessed that he surprised him with his win in the Deloitte at Leopardstown earlier this month but the step up in trip seemed to really suit him and another three furlongs in the Neptune is unlikely to be of any concern to him. Mullins has won this race four times in the last decade so his runners are worth a second look and at this stage, he looks the main hope for the yard. I was really impressed with the way he stayed on at Leopardstown last month and his inclusion means the Neptune is shaping up to be a competitive race. Albert Bartlett Gordon Elliott confirmed in a Q&A session last night that Death Duty was on course for the Albert Bartlett and named the six-year-old as his best chance of a winner throughout the week. Augusta Kate looked likely to give him a race last time when coming down at the final flight and Willie Mullins has confirmed that she will take him on again at the Festival. The mares’ novice hurdle was also under consideration but her trainer believes that the 2m trip would be too short for her, so has elected to go down the 3m route. She will also be joined in the race by stablemates C’Est Jersey and Penhill, with the latter likely to appreciate the quicker ground according to his trainer. Funnily enough this is one of the novice races in which Willie Mullins doesn’t have a very good record but it is hard to see Augusta Kate being too far away if she reproduces her Naas run (barring the final flight). In terms of my selection Wholestone, I was pleased to hear Anthony Bromley give him a favourable mention on At The Races on Monday evening when speaking to Matt Chapman. His form is holding up well and the way in which he won at Cheltenham last time suggested that he is continuing to improve. With the Festival in mind, he looks pretty versatile in terms of ground conditions and he has shown on more than one occasion that he can get down and tough it out under pressure. This should stand him in good stead in the Albert Bartlett and I am confident of a big run from him. His task could be made a little easier if West Approach doesn’t line up with connections still mulling a crack at the Stayers’ Hurdle with him. He was far from disgraced in the Cleeve Hurdle behind the likes of Unowhatimeanharry and Cole Harden but his price of 20/1 is probably a fair reflection of his chances for the open event. If he does revert back to novice company then he would clearly be a leading player although Wholestone has seen him off on a couple of occasions already this Triumph Alan King’s Master Blueyes caused something of a surprise when winning the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle in taking fashion on Saturday. Alan King’s four-year-old took four attempts to get off the mark over hurdles but has clearly turned a corner since then and although people will point to the fact that Charli Parcs didn’t run his race, the winner still beat the smart Evening Hush by eleven lengths at the line. His trainer said afterwards that his success at Ludlow had brought him on a tonne and whilst he didn’t consider him a Triumph horse beforehand, he certainly does now. Perhaps it has just taken a little longer than normal for the penny to drop with him but he travelled and jumped really well and it is hard to argue that this was a fluke. As I mentioned briefly much will be made of the run of Charli Parcs who was a short price to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles. However, Barry Geraghty never really seemed happy with the four-year-old and was urging him along from some way out at Kempton on Saturday. A lot will be made of the fact that he fell at the second last but he made up a lot of ground once he got into the clear as the field turned for home and he might even have been coming back on the bridle. I suspect that he didn’t really enjoy being in amongst horses on Saturday but once he got sight of some daylight he really started to motor. I think he would have been at least second if he had stood up and I am surprised that some firms pushed him out so much for both the Supreme and the Triumph. His latest run may now mean that he stays down the Triumph route but Nicky Henderson described him as potentially the best juvenile he had trained in the lead up to the race and I would be surprised if he was so wide of the mark. As for my selection Dinaria Des Obeaux she was awarded her Grade 3 success in the Stewards Room at the weekend, having suffered interference in the closing stages at Fairyhouse. It seemed a fair enough decision as she was checked, switched to the outside and was gaining all the way to the line and only beaten a nose at the finish. Regardless of the interference, she didn’t really look like a Triumph horse in the making and Gordon Elliott confirmed last night that she could run in the Fred Winter, depending on what mark she gets from the British handicapper. She hasn’t been totally ruled out of the Triumph but at this stage, the handicap option looks a little more likely for her. Novice Chasers Arkle With Altior now as short as 1/4 for the Arkle, there are plenty of connections looking for alternative options but one man who doesn’t seem to be deterred is Henry De Bromhead who could saddle as many as three in the race. Unfortunately one of those won’t be Identity Thief who won’t be ready in time for the Festival but Some Plan, Three Stars and Ordinary World are all on course for the race. De Bromhead said: “Some Plan won the Irish Arkle, Three Stars has won a Grade Three at Punchestown and was just beaten in another Grade Three, and Ordinary World was second to Min on ground he wouldn’t have been mad about at Leopardstown. I hate going out with the train of thought that we’re running for second, I’m not confidently thinking I’m going to win, ratings will tell you I’m not, but I’m running to win and that’s it.” Some Plan is the shortest of the trio at around the 14/1 mark, with Ordinary World a general 40/1 shot and Three Stars as big as 66/1. It is also worth pointing out that our selection Forest Bihan is now a general 16/1 shot, a good deal shorter than the 25/1 I advised him at a couple of weeks ago. His trainer is confident that he deserves to take his chance in the field and whilst it is hard to see Altior slipping up, I think his form is as good as any of the other potential runners in the race. JLT There isn’t a great deal to report on this front but I was interested to read Sam Twiston-Davies’ comments, who described Politologue as his best chance of a winner at the meeting. The hood and earplugs that the six-year-old wore last time really seemed to settle him down and that will be important given the size of the crowd and the noise that he will face at the Cheltenham Festival. His overall form is very good including his narrow defeat by Waiting Patiently as he was conceding 3lb to the winner on the day. Twiston-Davies said: “It was disappointing to get beaten at Haydock, but I don’t think he lost much in defeat as he gave the winner 3lb. He’ll have a hood and ear plugs and that should help him switch off better. He’s becoming the finished article.” RSA Having been favourite for the race a few weeks ago before his fall at Leopardstown Bellshill could still come over for the Festival with the RSA and the National Hunt Chase both still possible targets. His trainer mentioned that he ran poorly at that Leopardstown meeting last year and is under no illusions that his best chance lies in a race where his stamina can come into play. He will need to continue to please his trainer in the mornings to make the journey over but 12/1 seems a more realistic price than the 4/1 he was before his last run. Misc Races Mares Apple’s Jade may have suffered defeat at the hands of Limini last week but she remains on course for the Mares Hurdle according to her trainer Gordon Elliott. Although she has won on heavy ground in the past, I suspect that she is better on a sounder surface and given that connections of the winner are mulling a Champion Hurdle bid, she might just have bumped into one on this occasion. She has plenty of form to suggest that she can run a big race in the Mares’ Hurdle although her old rival Vroum Vroum Mag could be tough to beat. The pair met at Fairyhouse in December when Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old was probably given too much to do and there was only a short-head between them at the line. This race seems to be the main target for Vroum Vroum Mag at the Festival and personally I think she is hard to oppose at the head of the market. Bumper JP McManus looks to have a couple of smart bumper prospects in his ownership, notably Early Doors who made a winning start at Punchestown last week. The four-year-old settled well early on and stayed on strongly under Patrick Mullins to win by nine lengths at the line, earning him quotes of as short as 20/1 for the Champion Bumper. There was no suggestion afterwards that Cheltenham was on the agenda but his trainer Joseph O’Brien thinks a lot of him so he could be one to keep an eye on. Another who will carry the JP McManus silks is Delirant who hasn’t raced in Britain yet but in his time in France he won two bumpers, including a Grade 1 contest at Saint-Cloud in November. He has a number of entries in the next week or so which suggests connections are keen to get him out and it will be interesting to see if his name is amongst the entries for the Bumper when it closes. David Pipe said in a recent stable tour that he wasn’t sure whether he would head to Cheltenham and he is as big as 25/1 with Skybet. One who looks unlikely to line up at the Festival is Champ who could only finish second to Emma Lavelle’s Irish Prophecy at Kempton on Saturday. Adrian Heskin always looked confident aboard the winner and he was only pushed out to win by a widening margin at the line. He was introduced at 10/1 with one firm but his trainer’s husband said afterwards: “we are thinking about Liverpool but I wasn’t expecting him to enjoy the cut in the ground and with that and the pace he has he is even more exciting. We never factored in Cheltenham and I don’t think we should change.” Foxhunters Paint The Clouds who has finished third in the last two Foxhunters at the Cheltenham Festival is likely to head there for another crack this year following a winning return to action at Doncaster last week. The twelve-year-old was lame after his victory at Stratford in the summer but the vet was happy for him to continue his career when he checked him in October. He is a horse who prefers a sound surface and Warren Greatrex has said that if the ground is suitable, he will be lining up again. Another lining up with a chance is Pacha Du Polder who also made a winning return to action, landing the spoils at Bangor a couple of weeks ago. Paul Nicholls has been pleased with the ten-year-old since he came back in last year and hopes that keeping him fresh could result in a better performance come the Festival. Bryony Frost is going to ride him this time around and considering his rider was unable to pick up the whip in last year’s race, I think he is currently a little overpriced at around the 16/1 mark. Nicholls’ main hope is likely to be Wonderful Charm who has won his first two starts in this sphere. Nicholls revealed this week that Katie Walsh has been booked to ride Wonderful Charm with regular pilot Will Biddick opting to ride Ask The Weatherman for Jack Barber. To be honest, I find this a difficult race to weigh up ante-post and given the potential for fallers, it is not a race I am too keen to have a big bet in. Handicaps Coral Cup Peregrine Run claimed a notable scalp earlier in the season when getting the better Wholestone at Cheltenham in November and it seems his trainer is leaning towards a crack at the Coral Cup, depending on what mark he gets from the handicapper. He also ran behind Willoughby Court at Warwick in January and the form of that has been boosted with the runner-up Gayebury bolting up on his handicap debut at the weekend. The ground would have been too soft for him at Warwick and his trainer has said that he won’t go to Cheltenham unless the ground is good. Fred Winter With the Fred Winter in mind, it was no surprise to see the price of Divin Bere shorten up on Saturday evening. Nicky Henderson’s juvenile got the better of Master Blueyes at Huntingdon earlier in the season and hasn’t been seen since. That was his fourth run over hurdles and despite the wide margin of the Adonis winner on Saturday, Divin Bere has only been raised 2lb by the handicapper to a mark of 139. Henderson won this race with Une Artiste in 2012 and he looks to have another strong candidate on his hands here. Pertemps Final I mentioned in passing a little earlier that Gayebury had made a successful start to life in handicaps and he booked his place in the Pertemps Final with a wide-margin success at Chepstow on Saturday. He looked to have plenty in hand as he stretched clear of his rivals to win by thirteen lengths and the handicapper has taken no chances by raising him 15lb to 147. He is a general 14/1 shot for the final but only one of the last ten winners has been rated higher than 140 so I wouldn’t be too quick to back him for the final. Those in behind him who managed to qualify for the Final were Jury Duty, Surtee Du Berlais, Solstice Star, Splash Of Ginge and Rolling Maul. Over in Ireland, Presenting Percy enjoyed a nice prep run for the Final by winning at Fairyhouse in the hands of Davy Russell. The six-year-old was fourth and fifth in Qualifiers earlier in the season but was fitted with a tongue-tie for this assignment and it seemed to bring about a good deal of improvement. He won with plenty in hand and the rise in the weights should be enough to get him into the Final. He represents the same connections as last year’s winner Mall Dini so has to be respected, although I think 6/1 is a little skinny at this stage. County An interesting name amongst the entries for the County Hurdle was Arctic Fire who hasn’t been seen since finishing second to stablemate Faugheen in last season’s Irish Champion Hurdle. However, his trainer said earlier in the week that he was “less than 50-50” to run in the race, although that largely depends on how his work is in the coming weeks. He went very close to winning the race in 2014 but his mark is likely to be a good deal higher this time around and given his absence, he is probably worth passing over. Another returning from a lengthy absence is Peace And Co who hasn’t run since being pulled up in the Champion Hurdle behind Annie Power last year. However, his trainer was very complimentary about the horse in a stable tour last week and believes that he might have got him back to something like his best form. “He is working extremely well and you could ride him in a head collar these days. All that lunacy has gone and I am not going to say you will see another Lazarus but you might do. He has been working well and he could go Imperial Cup and then the County Hurdle. He has had a wind operation and then pneumonia and he has just come back a completely different person. You can’t say it will work but you can ride in front, ride him from the back or anywhere whereas he was previously going 100mph on the racecourse.” His current mark is 149 which is high enough for the County but on his day he was a Grade 1 performer so perhaps he may be able to shoulder a weight like that. The favourite with most firms is North Hill Harvey who has been off the track since winning the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November. He is only 8lb higher for that success and he seems to be following the same route as his stablemate Superb Story who was placed in the Greatwood before winning the County at last year’s Festival . Modus has done the form no harm subsequently, winning the Lanzarote and clearly the horse has been laid out for this race by his trainer. Martin Pipe Paul Nicholls saddled a second winner of the race with Ibis Du Rheu last year and he will have at least one runner this time around in the shape of Tommy Silver, who is likely to target the race following his winning return at Taunton last week. Stan Sheppard is likely to keep the ride on the five-year-old who was seventh in last season’s Triumph and he is available at 25/1 with a number of firms. Gordon Elliott has yet to win the race but is hoping that The Storyteller can end that run this year. The six-year-old has won his last two starts over hurdles, most recently getting the better of Battleford at Thurles and given he is rated 142 in Ireland, it will be interesting to see what the British handicapper makes of him. He is generally the favourite with most of the bookmakers at around 8/1 and given his form it is easy to see why he has been so popular. Bets DIVIN BERE (Fred Winter) – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 NRNB (Paddy Power, SkyBet) (4 places) Just the one bet this week and that is this four-year-old in the Fred Winter. As I mentioned above, the form of his latest run was franked at the weekend with Master Blueyes landing the Adonis and I think his revised mark of 139 is fair enough given what he has achieved so far. Nicky Henderson tends to do well with his juveniles and although the Triumph might be tempting for connections, I think he has a big chance if he lines up here. He has attracted some support over the weekend but I still think 10/1 is reasonable enough and with the NRNB concession, we don’t have to worry if he runs elsewhere. Ante-Post Portfolio JEZKI (Stayers Hurdle) – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 (bet365, Betfred) CHARBEL (JLT Novices’ Chase) – 0.5pt e/w @ 33/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook) CILAOS EMERY (Supreme Novices) – 1pt e/w @ 12/1 NRNB (Sky Bet) NATIVE RIVER (Gold Cup) –1pt e/w @ 9/1 (Betway) WHOLESTONE (Albert Bartlett) – 1pt e/w @ 16/1 (bet365, SkyBet) MOON RACER (Champion Hurdle) – 1pt e/w @ 20/1 NRNB (bet365) KOTKIKOVA (Mares Hurdle) – 0.5pt e/w @ 16/1 (BetVictor, Paddy Power) (likely non-runner) SUB LIEUTENANT (Ryanair Chase) – 0.5pt e/w @ 14/1 NRNB (bet365) BARNEY DWAN (Pertemps Final) – 0.5pt e/w @ 33/1 (bet365, SkyBet) (4 places) FOREST BIHAN (Arkle) – 0.5pt e/w @ 25/1 NRNB (bet365, SkyBet) CHAMPERS ON ICE (National Hunt Chase) – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 NRNB (bet365, SkyBet) MESSIRE DES OBEAUX (Neptune) – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 NRNB (bet365) DISKO (RSA Chase) – 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 (Betfred, Ladbrokes, Coral) DINARIA DES OBEAUX (Triumph) – 1pt e/w @ 8/1 NRNB (bet365, SkyBet) DIVIN BERE (Fred Winter) – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 NRNB (Paddy Power, SkyBet) (4 places