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arsenalfh

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  1. Like
    arsenalfh reacted to Darran in Cheltenham Friday - 17th March 2017   
    Here is my Foxhunter preview
    Anseanachai Cliste – A horse I remember well from his time when owned by David Maxwell. I saw him run in a couple of points at Godstone under David and he didn’t look like a horse that wanted to know. He then ran in a hunter chase at Warwick when Will Biddick rode him and again he just wasn’t interested and pulled up. That was in 2015 and he went back to Ireland after that. He surprised me when finishing 5th at Leopardtown (in front of On The Fringe) last year and then he surprised me again when I saw how short he was in the betting for this. Following Leopardstown he went on to win 7 races on the bounce! I can’t quite believe it is the same horse I witnessed in 2015. Horses he beat include Valmy Baie and Quiet Account so the form isn’t bad. He hasn’t been seen since winning in June though and even though he clearly is a much better horse than he used to be, his form still looks below what is required to win this.
    Ask The Weatherman – Been the big market mover for the race. He was going to be aimed at the Foxhunters last season, but he picked up an injury. He has won 8 of his 9 points and it is interesting watching his videos because he hasn't always looked visually impressive, but what does make you sit up and take notice are the times he has been clocking. Last season in his two runs he clocked the fastest time at Larkhill in soft ground when he won by 30L and it was the same story in even worse ground at Chipley. On his seasonal debut at Larkhill he recorded the fastest time by 7 seconds when beating Ceasar Milan by 15L and then he put in a very impressive performance when beating Rebel Rebellion on his Rules debut at Wincanton. I was impressed with his jumping that day and he looks to have all the qualities you need to win a Foxhunter. The problem is Rebel Rebellion disappointed at Leicester recently although you probably have to say he didn’t run his race. He won’t mind what the weather does, but if it does rain crucially we know he handles it. He looks like he stays all day and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if he turned into a Grand National horse at some stage and Cappa Bleu who run the Foxhunter in 2009 went on to finish 4th and 2nd in the National.
    Aupcharlie – Was 3rd in the 2011 Cheltenham Bumper and was only beaten just over 4L when 6th to On The Fringe in last year’s race. That was clearly a very good effort, but I just wonder if he was one of the suspect stayers to run well because of the way the race was run. Following the Cheltenham run he was a well beaten 7th to On The Fringe at Punchestown. This time around his season has been based on the Foxhunter. He was beaten in a point on February 11th and then bolted up at Fairyhouse on Saturday over 2m5f albeit it wasn’t a very strong hunter chase. That should have put him spot on for Cheltenham, but I still have my stamina concerns about him and although I can see him running well I don’t really see how he can reverse form with On The Fringe or Paint The Clouds. I suspect he will need a new jockey as well with Jamie Codd riding On The Fringe.
    Balnaslow – Beat Foxrock in a point in December, but was a 9L 2nd to him at Down Royal on Boxing Day. Only 5th behind On His Own and 2nd to Home Farm in two starts since and that suggests he won’t be up to winning this. Was 4th in the 2014 Kim Muir.
    Barel Of Laughs – A likeable horse who won the first hunter chase of the season at Taunton. Was 2nd over course and distance to Pearlysteps on hunter chase night here last April and as solid a run as that was it backs up the feeling he won’t be good enough to be involved in the finish here.
    Black Thunder – Finished 7th behind The Druids Nephew at the 2015 Festival when he actually burst a blood vessel. Didn’t show a great deal after that, but proved himself more than up to hunter chase company when winning a hot race at Kelso. Given the 2 in behind have both won since it was a surprise he was beaten by Premier Portrait back at Kelso a couple of weeks ago. Now Premier Portrait is a decent pointer and is a horse I can see running a solid race in the Foxhunter, but even so it was disappointing he had little in the tank on the run-in. The closeness of the 3rd Wicklow Lad does little for the form either especially as that one was disappointing at Carlisle next time. Given his Dad owns it Sam Waley-Cohen has to ride him over Paint The Clouds, but I certainly think he is on the wrong horse.
    Buckers Bridge – Well beaten 12th at last year’s Festival behind Empire Of Dirt and was 11th in the 2014 Grand National. Won a couple of open’s in Ireland including last time out, but overall form this season leaves him with something to find including 3rd in a Down Royal hunter chase to Foxrock.
    Cottage Oak – Won his last two in points including on Sunday, but has no chance here.
    Current Event – Was one of those non-stayers to benefit from the slower pace last year when finishing a close 4th. Was 4th at Aintree as well although beaten 25L then and he proved yet again he doesn’t stay this trip when a 35L to Pearlysteps over this course and distance on hunter chase night. Not run yet this season and his 3 riders to ride him in hunter chases are all booked on other mounts so it will be interesting to see who takes the ride this time around.
    Dolatulo – Thought he benefitted from Grand Vision and Black Thunder racing from a long way out at Kelso and was possibly slightly flattered by that effort even though he should have won the race. Ran poorly at Warwick where the race came too soon after Kelso, but was back to form when bolting up Ffos Las in the Welsh Foxhunter. His jockey is very inexperienced and he wonders if he is ready for such a test as this. Has run at the last 3 Festivals and been well beaten on each occasion albeit he was a big price each time.
    Grand Jesture – Given he has refused to race on his last three Rules starts he looks to be a pretty risky betting proposition. Has won a couple of Opens in Ireland this season, but was beaten at 1/2 on February 19th. The ability is there as he proves when 2nd to The Druids Nephew in the 2015 Festival, but he wouldn’t be for me given the large risk of him not starting.
    Grand Vision – Was 4th in the 2015 Kim Muir and I thought he ran a really good race on his first run since when 3rd at Kelso, given how keen he was and he race Black Thunder from a long way out. Backed that up with a dominant performance at Warwick when beating Pearlysteps and then qualified for this when 2nd to Pacha Du Polder at Bangor over 2m4f. I suspect he can reverse that form over this trip and should be capable of running a good race. Was also 3rd to Brindisi Breeze in the 2012 Albert Barlett.
    Lets Get Serious – Wouldn’t even win if he started now.
    Mendip Express – 8th in this last year and then 3rd at Aintree and Punchestown. Was beaten at 2/9 on his seasonal debut at Ludlow last month, but Mr Mercurial is a good horse on his day and he should come on for that run. Even so it is hard to see how he can reverse form with On The Fringe and at most he has a place chance.
    Minella For Value – Refused when returning to pointing in Ireland this season, but has won three of his next four including beating First Lieutenant. The other time he was 2nd to Sweet As A Nut though and I looks to have a fair bit to find based on that.
    On The Fringe – One of the best (if not the best) hunter chasers we have ever seen and it was a fantastic achievement to land the treble for the 2nd time last season. No doubt will be bidding to land the treble treble this season and he proved at Leopardstown last time that he is in great form. He jumped really well and was just beaten by the match fit Foxrock. That was a big improvement from his run in that Leopardstown race last year and that can only bode well for his bid to land the hat-trick. I thought last year that the ride Nina gave him got him out of jail as I don’t think he was at his best, but that Leopardstown run suggests he is further forward this season. He sets a very tough standard for the newcomers to aim at. I am sure some of you reading this will have purchased the Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide and ATR’s Kevin Blake has written a few banker or busts for the 4 days and one of his busts was On The Fringe. The main reason for this was because he feels the demands of this race don’t suit him. 2 years ago I pretty much wrote that and I think I may have even said they shouldn’t bother running him in this race and just focus on the Aintree version. Fortunately for me he still won at Aintree, but he bolted up at Cheltenham first. Now the soft ground was against Paint The Clouds and past him it wasn’t a strong race, so I can sort of see Kevin’s point about maybe that run isn’t as good as it looks visually. It is also true when Kevin points out he went on to produce better efforts last season than he did in this which he also did the other two times he has run at Cheltenham. However I think he has missed a crucial factor about the horse last season. He was injured which held him up and that clearly showed when he ran so poorly at Leopardstown. I think they were always playing catch up with him after that and he still wasn’t at his peak come March. As I mention above this year his run at Leopardstown proves he is much further forward and I would imagine he is ready to peak this time around.
    Pacha Du Polder – Was obviously the talking horse of last year’s race when flying up the hill to finish 5th under Victoria Pendleton. Bryony Frost is set to take the ride this time around and his win at Bangor when beaten Grand Vision showed he is back in good form this season. I think he was flattered by last year’s run though because he had his stamina protected and they went a slow pace so it wasn’t a test of stamina. Was 3rd behind Paint The Clouds at Stratford and I don’t see how he can reverse form with him let alone win.
    Paint The Clouds – Won the same Doncaster race for the 3rd year running last month and it was a good effort as including jockey’s claims he was giving 13lbs to the 2nd Ardea who is a decent hunter chaser in his own right. That effort should put him spot on for Cheltenham. The slow pace was against him last year and he just got going too late to overhaul Marito and On The Fringe on the run-in. The year before when he was also 3rd the ground went against him and if he gets decent ground and a fast pace he will have a major say yet again. Won the big race at Stratford for the 2nd time last year under Barry O’Neill who picks up the spare ride again here. As good as Sam is, I thought Barry gave him a hell of a ride to win that night and I think it is big plus to his chances that Barry is on again. That effort proved he was the best hunter chaser from these shores and he should be capable of going close once more.
    Pentiffic – Won the Grand National Chase when he was trained in Australia and has won 3 hunter chases since turning to them in 2014. Usually runs on when the race is over, but ran as well as could
    be expected when 2nd to Wonderful Charm in the Walrus last time. Probably capable of a mid field finish if he were to take his chance as he will keep going when others have cried enough.
    Premier Portrait – Has been a winning machine in points over the last two years and caused a massive upset when beating the 1/8 Black Thunder at Kelso last time. I certainly think this test will suit as he can get himself outpaced, but as he showed when 3rd at Horseheath the time before as well as at Kelso, he can finish his races off well. The suspicion is though that Black Thunder underperformed and given Wicklow Lad, who finished a close 3rd, ran poorly at Carlisle last week that also puts a question mark over the form. What I can imagine happening though is him getting out paced and then staying on past beaten horses and as much as it probably won’t see him hitting the frame it should be enough for a top 10 finish.
    Salsify – He looked along way below his best on his seasonal return at Thurles when falling heavily behind Foxrock. He ran much better behind the same horse at Leopardstown last time though which was good to see. Even so it is hard to see him adding to his two wins in the race on the form he has shown in the last couple of years.
    Sweet As A Nut – Has even less experience than Ask The Weatherman having only had the 7 starts. He started off his season early when winning a winners of 2 race at Castletown, before running out on his next start. He was then 3rd in his first start in open company Dromahane behind Sydney Paget in November. He made his hunter chase debut over Christmas at Limerick and he couldn’t have been more impressive when bolting up by 15L although it was a pretty weak contest. He qualified for this when winning an open at Tallowlast month. Does look progressive, but he is going to have to improve a lot to win this. Would be some feat to win this as well given he only made his debut in December 2015 although the vibes have been fairly strong regarding his chances from the Irish.
    Warden Hill – Fairly useful under Rules for Mick Channon and didn’t run too badly when 3rd over course and distance last April off 137. He fell on his pointing debut in December, but then won well in January before finishing 2nd at Fakenham to Carlton Ryan. He did get hampered at the last although it is unlikely he would have won and he will struggle here.
    Wonderful Charm – Won a couple of Grade 2 chases in the past and currently has a BHA rating of 153. Has not had to be extended to win the Scottish Foxhunter at Musselburgh and The Walrus at Haydock and the win there means he has a chance of going for a £10k bonus. Beating Carlton Ryan as easily as he did was a superb effort as he is a useful hunter chaser himself. The problem I have is that Paul Nicholls has come out and said that the horse has had a few wind ops and that he still has an issue with his wind. He wears a tongue-tie in his races which backs that point up. Winning a Cheltenham Foxhunter is very different from beating lesser rivals on the bridle on a flat track and I just wonder how much he is going to find once he comes off the bridle. I’d be surprised if he can win this on the bridle and if his wind becomes an issue under pressure then he looks opposable to me. Katie Walsh is a decent jockey booking although she said her best bet of the meeting was On The Fringe at a recent Festival preview night. To put his hunter chase runs into context he has been given a loose-leaf (the pointing and hunter chase formbook) rating of 11-6 which is 1lb higher than Marito and Paint The Clouds achieved last season and 5lbs below On The Fringe. The final point to make is I have seen one tipster state that Wonderful Charm is well in with On The Fringe based on BHA ratings. However BHA ratings aren’t really worth looking at when it comes to hunter chases. If Wonderful Charm was capable of winning a handicap off 153 he would not be running in this and in my view he certainly isn’t any better than Foxrock and given I think a race fit On The Fringe would be capable of beating Foxrock, I think he can beat Wonderful Charm here.
    Summary – There seem to be vibes in Ireland for the chances of Sweet As A Nut and Aupcharlie but neither massively appeal to me. The former is clearly progressive, but has to improve a fair bit on what he has shown us so far. Aupcharlie has been trained with this race in mind, but I can’t help thinking he was a bit flattered by his 6th in this last year as he benefitted by the slower than normal pace and I think he might struggle to stay in a truly run race. Wonderful Charm is respected and if his wind doesn’t stop him then he has the class to go close, but his wind issues are enough to put me off him. I backed Ask The Weatherman prior to the Wincanton run and was very pleased after the race, but it does concern me Rebel Rebellion wasn’t for whatever reason able to boost the form at Leicester. Even so I think he looks like a horse with a lot of potential and I can easily see him turning into a National type next season. He is proven on any ground so he won’t mind what the weather does and I believe he has the ability to go close. The one horse who I think is overpriced is Paint The Clouds as granted good ground he shouldn’t be a double figure price. He has been 3rd in the last two runnings and it is easy to see him hitting the frame again at the very least. I do however think On The Fringe is going to be very tough to beat. He is clearly further forward than last season and I suspect he can put in a better performance than he did in this race last year. If he does than it is hard to see him getting beat. His price is obviously reflective of his chances though, but as I suspected his price has gone back out a bit already and it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets even bigger on Friday morning as the bookies start competing for business.
    1st On The Fringe
    2nd Paint The Clouds
    3rd Ask The Weatherman
  2. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from DanV89 in Champions League > Feb 14th - 22nd   
    FC Porto v Juventus
    The home side have an incredible record at home in the Champions League and have beaten Bayern and Chelsea at home in recent years. They also may have the perfect style to upset this Juventus side with their aggressive press from the front led by Andre Silva particularly with Bonucci missing from the squad. However I wanted bigger than 3.4 to be backing them against a side like Juventus and the value on the win market looks on the side of Juventus if anything at 2.6.
    However I've been collecting shot location numbers in Liga NOS this season and Porto's centre half pairing come out incredibly well on shot quantity and quality. Although Porto are usually dominant against most opponents in the domestic league and get lots of set pieces as a result this is not seen in the other members of the "Os Tres Grandes" Benfica and Sporting. Porto are doing something right in the set piece department with quality set piece takers in Telles, Layun and Torres for example and also Marcano and Felipe who are able to attack their deliveries with a lot of success. Incredibly the pair have been involved in 10 shots logged as big chances this season only being beaten by strike partners Andre Silva and Soares.
    Juventus have conceded 7 goals from headers this season and are missing key man Bonucci at the back tonight. Some of there problems have stemmed from individual errors and Porto will be hoping to expose Alex Sandro and Lichtsteiner who can be suspect positionally at set plays.
    Marcano to score anytime @ 20/1 Bwin
    Felipe to score anytime @ 20/1 Bwin
  3. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from Icongene in Champions League > Feb 14th - 22nd   
    FC Porto v Juventus
    The home side have an incredible record at home in the Champions League and have beaten Bayern and Chelsea at home in recent years. They also may have the perfect style to upset this Juventus side with their aggressive press from the front led by Andre Silva particularly with Bonucci missing from the squad. However I wanted bigger than 3.4 to be backing them against a side like Juventus and the value on the win market looks on the side of Juventus if anything at 2.6.
    However I've been collecting shot location numbers in Liga NOS this season and Porto's centre half pairing come out incredibly well on shot quantity and quality. Although Porto are usually dominant against most opponents in the domestic league and get lots of set pieces as a result this is not seen in the other members of the "Os Tres Grandes" Benfica and Sporting. Porto are doing something right in the set piece department with quality set piece takers in Telles, Layun and Torres for example and also Marcano and Felipe who are able to attack their deliveries with a lot of success. Incredibly the pair have been involved in 10 shots logged as big chances this season only being beaten by strike partners Andre Silva and Soares.
    Juventus have conceded 7 goals from headers this season and are missing key man Bonucci at the back tonight. Some of there problems have stemmed from individual errors and Porto will be hoping to expose Alex Sandro and Lichtsteiner who can be suspect positionally at set plays.
    Marcano to score anytime @ 20/1 Bwin
    Felipe to score anytime @ 20/1 Bwin
  4. Like
    arsenalfh reacted to StevieDay1983 in Weekend > Feb 11th - 13th   

    It was a fairly settled week as far as results were concerned last weekend for the Premier League. Here are the odds and ratings for next weekend. What do you guys reckon? Liverpool versus Tottenham could prove a crucial game in the title race. The Reds might be on a poor run of form but this is the sort of big game where Klopp will get his players pumped. I'm tempted by the Liverpool win against the form book but think a draw is more likely.
    @bet man, you correctly predicted Manchester United to defeat Leicester but I don't think any of us thought they'd do it that easily. As @vasilli07 quite rightly says, Leicester could well be going down. Losing Kante, Mahrez and Vardy lacking the work rate and motivation they had last season (probably due to huge pay rises), and the defence looking out of sorts means they are struggling. Too many problems to fix which could lead to big issues.
    @andrewcalo, you are becoming the master of the audacious bet. Not that any are coming off right now but we all love your endeavour! What have you got lined up this weekend? Swansea will surely be going for the win against the Foxes?
    @DrBetter, great to see you getting involved in the chat. Do you have any bets in the pipeline this weekend?
    A fair few of you saw the Everton win coming but did you see 6-3? Or Lukaku scoring four goals? Well done to those of you that did.
    @sajtion, my bets and outcomes almost mirrored yours this week mate. Mixed fortunes but hopefully we can do better this week with some games that appear a bit easier to predict.
    @Mindfulness, what is going through your head as a Crystal Palace fan right now? Is anything other than a loss likely away to Stoke? Beat them and it could be the trigger that drags them into the relegation dog fight as well.
    @Pep004, as usual, always great to have your input. Great decision by Pep to start Gabriel over Aguero. Can they play together? I've heard rumours Aguero is off to Real Madrid at the end of the season hence his reduced game time to avoid him hitting bonus payment targets. Surely not true!
    @mrclubbie, good shouts on Watford and West Brom. What margin did you go for on Tottenham? Thought they were going to win by 2-3 once they went 1-0 up. Middlesbrough are in trouble.
    @Magic0024, send us some of those top stats you dish out every week mate!
    @Icongene, taking Chelsea at those odds almost feels like you had free money in hindsight. Brilliant work.
    @betcatalog, smashing those BTTS bets again! Keep those coming fella!
    Brilliant to see the likes of @YNWA, @Bronxie, and @arsenalfh posting in here as well. Keep the posts coming guys! Special tip of the cap to arsenalfh for making that Hull call as well!
  5. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from BillyHills in Little Nuggets - February   
    My mate is always talking up Kenneth Slack. Don't have too many bets in the UK myself but he sounds like a promising trainer.
  6. Like
    arsenalfh reacted to BillyHills in Little Nuggets - February   
    Sedgefield
    Trainer Kenneth Slack has a decent record at Sedgefield and has had 10 winners from 35 runners over hurdles.
    In 2017 he has had only 8 runners over hurdles and produced 2 winners, 3 seconds and a third.
    On Monday he saddles just one runner
    2.00 Sedgefield: Onwiththeparty 

  7. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from richard-westwood in Betfair hurdle   
    Sutton Place thrashed Supasundae who has been improving steadily through the season despite giving him weight. That was a monster performance I think and he wouldn't look out of place in a Champion Hurdle. 10lbs well in he could take a ton of stopping.
  8. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from pulsar12 in Weekend > Feb 4th & 5th   
    Hull City v Liverpool
    Like I said midweek Hull have improved massively under Marco Silva. Their shot ratio is much better and yet again they were better than a relegation side when getting a draw against Man Utd in Old Trafford. Liverpool are better against sides who tend to come at them more which is why their record against the top 6 is so impressive but have been involved in the two of the four biggest shocks this season at the bookie's prices when losing at home to Swansea and away at Bournemouth. At the prices I think Hull are good value to take something from this game and again I'll dutch the draw and home win.
    0.8pts Hull Win @ 7/1 Betfair
    1.2pts Draw @ 4/1 Paddy Power
  9. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from Pep004 in Weekend > Feb 4th & 5th   
    Hull City v Liverpool
    Like I said midweek Hull have improved massively under Marco Silva. Their shot ratio is much better and yet again they were better than a relegation side when getting a draw against Man Utd in Old Trafford. Liverpool are better against sides who tend to come at them more which is why their record against the top 6 is so impressive but have been involved in the two of the four biggest shocks this season at the bookie's prices when losing at home to Swansea and away at Bournemouth. At the prices I think Hull are good value to take something from this game and again I'll dutch the draw and home win.
    0.8pts Hull Win @ 7/1 Betfair
    1.2pts Draw @ 4/1 Paddy Power
  10. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from StevieDay1983 in Weekend > Feb 4th & 5th   
    Hull City v Liverpool
    Like I said midweek Hull have improved massively under Marco Silva. Their shot ratio is much better and yet again they were better than a relegation side when getting a draw against Man Utd in Old Trafford. Liverpool are better against sides who tend to come at them more which is why their record against the top 6 is so impressive but have been involved in the two of the four biggest shocks this season at the bookie's prices when losing at home to Swansea and away at Bournemouth. At the prices I think Hull are good value to take something from this game and again I'll dutch the draw and home win.
    0.8pts Hull Win @ 7/1 Betfair
    1.2pts Draw @ 4/1 Paddy Power
  11. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from andrewcalo in Weekend > Feb 4th & 5th   
    Hull City v Liverpool
    Like I said midweek Hull have improved massively under Marco Silva. Their shot ratio is much better and yet again they were better than a relegation side when getting a draw against Man Utd in Old Trafford. Liverpool are better against sides who tend to come at them more which is why their record against the top 6 is so impressive but have been involved in the two of the four biggest shocks this season at the bookie's prices when losing at home to Swansea and away at Bournemouth. At the prices I think Hull are good value to take something from this game and again I'll dutch the draw and home win.
    0.8pts Hull Win @ 7/1 Betfair
    1.2pts Draw @ 4/1 Paddy Power
  12. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from Icongene in Midweek > Jan 31st - Feb 1st   
    Man Utd v Hull City
    Hull have improved significantly under new coach Marco Silva and look ovepriced here. Their shot ratio is much better than before and they matched Chelsea at Stamford Bridge up until the final few minutes last time. I don't think the market has caught onto their improvement and I'll dutch the draw and away win here.
    0.5 pts Hull Win @ 18/1 Betfair
    1.5 pts Draw @ 7/1 Betfair
  13. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from Jimmy2shoes in Cheltenham Friday - 17th March 2017   
    Thistlecrack clearly stays well but from what I've seen over fences I think 2m 5f might be his optimum trip. Still doesn't jump exceptionally well and I think at this stage he's looking a little exposed over fences. His jumping is still iffy and since the Gold Cup was always the plan I'm sure they had him well schooled and forward at the start of the season. So although he's lightly raced I'm not sure if there's more improvement in him unless he drops in trip which is completely out of the question anyway.
    All aboard the Cue Card train.
  14. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from Jimmy2shoes in Cheltenham Wednesday - 15th March 2017   
    Price now may look good on the day but trying to predict Mullins and where he is going to place his runners is near on impossible. They're talking of Douvan possibly for the Gold Cup now that Vautour is out of the equation. Save your cash for when he's declared and you never know what mad price the bookies will offer on the day as they compete for business at the festival.
  15. Like
    arsenalfh got a reaction from Jimmy2shoes in Cheltenham Friday - 17th March 2017   
    I thought the same after his reappearance but just look at how he absolutely destroyed Coneygree in the Betfair. For whatever reason he didn't run his race in the King George but the talk that Thistlecrack broke him is complete rubbish. From 4 to 3 out Thistlecrack only ran 4L quicker than 152 rated Might Bite despite the latter going considerably faster during the first part of the race. There's no way that is quick enough to ruin Cue Card's race and I believe he just wasn't right on the day causing him to run well below form. He's definitely a better horse at Haydock and Cheltenham too anyway.
    The King George form is bad, the time was poor and Cue Card has an excuse. His Betfair Chase thrashing of Coneygree is the best form in the book and if he's anything like 16s or 20s when firms go NRNB that will be e/w bet of the century with the Lexus throwing up nothing of note.
  16. Like
    arsenalfh reacted to beaker1 in My Ante-post Diary   
    MY ANTE-POST DIARY -2016/2017


    PART 6



    Gold Cup


    The man who seems to be holding all of the cards in the Gold Cup picture is Colin Tizzard who has the top two in the betting in the shape of Thistlecrack and Native River. On Sunday, he confirmed the plan was to take the favourite back to Cheltenham for the Cotswold Chase at the end of the month, whilst the stable’s Welsh National hero may now head straight to the Gold Cup.

    However Tizzard also raised the possibility of having two more runners in the Gold Cup, with a decision on Cue Card’s participation likely to hinge on how he fares when dropped back in trip in the Ascot Chase. The other possible for the race is the seven-year-old Alary who was placed in two Grade 1 chases in his native France in 2016 and is yet to race for the Tizzard team. He could make his debut for the yard in the Denman Chase at Newbury before having a go at the Gold Cup.

    Meanwhile, at this stage the Gigginstown representatives look likely to be Outlander and Valseur Lido with Eddie O’Leary admitting that last year’s winner Don Cossack faces a long road ahead of him as he bids to defend his crown. Don Poli who finished second to Outlander in the Lexus is more likely to head to Aintree for the Grand National, with connections unsure whether he has the requisite class to land a Gold Cup.

     
    Champion Hurdle


    The Champion Hurdle picture continues to be a little murky with the top two in the market yet to make their seasonal reappearances. Last week I mentioned that Rich Ricci had indicated that the Irish Champion Hurdle would be Faugheen’s starting point and it looks as though he will be joined in the race by runaway Ryanair Hurdle winner Petit Mouchoir. 

    It also looks as though it is the likely starting point for Jezki, whose trainer Jessica Harrington admitted “he just wasn’t right” prior to the Christmas Hurdle and hence they have decided to give the nine-year-old a little more time. Despite returning over two miles however, the indications are that he will still go down the 3m route this term, so still has the World Hurdle on his agenda.


     
    Novice Hurdlers

    Supreme


    Having put up Cilaos Emery at 12/1 with SkyBet last week, it is always good to see that price disappear and he is now only 10/1 with that firm. Admittedly, he can still be backed at 12/1 with a couple of firms but at least we have the security of No Runner No Bet, especially as we know how late his trainer likes to leave it before finalising plans.

    Looking ahead to the weekend, we may get a couple of clues in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday with Paul Nicholls’ Capitaine the ante-post favourite to follow up his Ascot success. The list of potential rivals includes Colin Tizzard’s Finian’s Oscar who made a winning start at Hereford last month, last season’s Aintree bumper winner Kayf Grace and dual winner Charlemar. Perhaps one of these will point their name into consideration for the Supreme like last year’s winner Yorkhill did.


     
    Neptune


    Despite a possible drop back in trip on Saturday, Finian’s Oscar has attracted support for the Neptune in recent days with Sportingbet now the only firm to have the five-year-old as big as 20/1.


    This market has had something of a shake-up in recent days with Robin Roe, who was second favourite in most books prior to the weekend, having fallen in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury at the weekend. Dan Skelton’s five-year-old hadn’t been asked for much when coming down at the third last but unfortunately he was found to have chipped a bone in his knee and is likely to miss the remainder of the campaign.

    The winner of the race in question was Alan King’s Messire Des Obeaux who was never far from the leaders and having been sent into the lead at the second last, he stayed on strongly in the closing stages to win by two lengths. He seems to be improving all the time and is now likely to head to Cheltenham for the Neptune Trial on Trials Day, which will determine where he goes at the Festival. He is currently a general 12/1 shot for the Neptune and around 20/1 for the Albert Bartlett.

    Another winner on the Newbury card who may have thrown his hat into the ring for the Neptune is William Henry who made no mistake having been sent off at short odds. The seven-year-old returned from a lengthy absence to finish second at Cheltenham in December behind Pingshou and made light work of his rivals here. This was over 2m but Nicky Henderson indicated afterwards that he likely needs further and he was introduced at 33/1 with SkyBet and Coral.

    The following day at Cheltenham, Coo Star Sivola justified market support to land one of the trials for the Neptune. The five-year-old stayed on strongly up the hill but despite being given quotes of 33/1, his trainer suggested that the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ race was a more likely option for him.

    One final one to mention who could also head down the handicap route is Philip Hobbs’ No Comment who successfully carried a double penalty to success at Plumpton yesterday. The six-year-old already had a mark of 133 prior to his latest success and whilst the Neptune looks a big ask, it would be no surprise to see him take high rank in something like the Martin Pipe or the Coral Cup.


     
    Triumph


    Newbury’s Juvenile Hurdle on Saturday has thrown up some smart performers in recent years and this year’s renewal went the way of Warren Greatrex’s Final Choice who improved on his second on debut at Warwick to win impressively. The only error of note came at the third flight but despite looking as though he would be caught on the run to the last, he found plenty for pressure in the closing stages to win going away under Gavin Sheehan. The Triumph was mentioned as a long-term aim for him but the bookmakers weren’t overly impressed as he was introduced at 66/1 with a number of firms.

    Up at Musselburgh on Sunday, Project Bluebook got off the mark at the second attempt over hurdles when getting the better of the Irish raider Warp Factor. John Quinn’s three-year-old reversed the form with Nietzche and looks to have taken well to this new discipline. I suspect that the Triumph may be flying a bit high but if he continues his improvement, then something like the Fred Winter could be on his agenda.

     
    Novice Chasers


    Arkle


    Warwick was the setting for Buveur D’Air’s second start over the larger obstacles and whilst he got the job done, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed afterwards. Although we didn’t see much of his debut at Haydock, the way he quickened up in the closing stages was taking and I was expecting something similar as he loomed alongside his main rival at the second last. His jumping on the whole was a little low and he also made a mistake at the penultimate fence when moving through to challenge. He had plenty in hand at the line but he will need to be better if he is to make the grade in this sphere and at present he remains a possible for the JLT as well as the Arkle.


     
    JLT


    The Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday looked likely to give us some Festival clues and it didn’t disappoint as Whisper got the better of Clan Des Obeaux following a prolonged duel from the home turn. Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old found plenty for pressure under Davy Russell and having now won his last two starts, he looks a live contender for both this race and the RSA in March.

    It must be said that Clan Des Obeaux may well have won but for a mistake at the second last which stopped the five-year-old’s momentum. To his credit, he didn’t give in and battled well up the hill but just couldn’t reel in the leader. That was only the seventh start in his life to date and with it still being early days with him, I could see him reversing the form if the pair met again.

    A little later in the afternoon, Colin Tizzard’s Robinsfirth got off the mark at Exeter, outstaying his rivals to win by five lengths at the line. A runner-up on his debut at Wincanton, he led for much of the way having been left in front at the first and came nicely clear on the run-in. His trainer nominated the Novices’ Handicap on Cheltenham Trials Day as his next target but should he win well there, then perhaps the JLT would come into the equation.

    Another who could be heading down the handicap route at the Festival is Baron Alco who won for the second time over fences at Plumpton yesterday. The drop back to 2m1f wasn’t ideal but Jamie Moore set out to make it a test on the six-year-old and he had enough to see of Solatentif in the closing stages. His task was made slightly easier with main market rival Laissez Dire falling at the ninth and in doing so suffered a fatal injury. Gary Moore immediately nominated the 2m4f Novice Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on the Tuesday as Baron Alco’s Festival target and having run well behind Whisper there in December, he could have a good chance.


     
    Misc Races


    Champion Bumper


    Willie Mullins introduced two smart bumper horses at the weekend, the first of which was Redhotfillypeppers who went some way to repaying her £200,000 price tag when winning at Punchestown on Saturday. The five-year-old looks a chaser in the making and made under owner David Dunsdon to win going away at the line. It is worth bearing in mind that this was over 2m2f so this race may not be on the cards, but she looks a smart prospect nonetheless.

    One who is more likely to line up at Cheltenham is Next Destination who also made a winning start at Fairyhouse on Sunday. The five-year-old was always going well under Patrick Mullins and was just pushed out under hands and heels to win on this occasion. His trainer mentioned afterwards how straightforward he was and he is likely to target a winners’ bumper next. He was introduced at a general 20/1 for the Champion Bumper.

    At this stage, the best of the British contingent looks to be Western Ryder who won the Listed bumper at Ascot a few weeks ago. Warren Greatrex has now stated that he will now go straight to the Festival and if he can improve, he looks the most likely British winner at this stage.

     
    Bets


    I have no bets to advise this week.
     

    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
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    MY ANTE-POST DIARY -2016/2017


    PART 5



    The Christmas period often has a big effect on the ante-post markets for the Cheltenham Festivals, with a number of top-class races on both sides of the Irish Sea. It tends to see a number of Festival races thinned out with plenty of dreams shattered as well as some dark horses emerging from out of the woodwork.
     
    Gold Cup

    The King George was billed as a match between the two stablemates Cue Card and Thistlecrack but despite the elder statesman challenging briefly down the back straight, it was more of a precession than a race. Despite his relative inexperience, Thistlecrack jumped boldly before sauntering clear as the field turned for home. He never really came off the bridle and was eased down close home to win by just over three lengths at the line. Not surprisingly, he was cut to as short as 4/5 for the Gold Cup because all being well, it looks as though if he gets round, he has an engine bigger than any racehorse in training. Having said that there were a couple of alarming leaps at the open ditches on Boxing Day which could cause him some problems back at Cheltenham and it will be interesting to see how he gets on in the Cotswold Chase in January.

    Colin Tizzard appears to have an embarrassment of riches in the staying chase division and Native River threw his hat firmly into the Gold Cup ring with a fine weight carrying performance in the Welsh National at Chepstow. Despite his big weight, the way he raced clear from the fourth last marked him as more than a handicapper and it was only Raz De Maree (carrying 10st 7lb) that managed to get anywhere near him. His jumping was excellent and he looks to have found a perfect partner in Richard Johnson to get the best out of him. A Grade 1 winner last term as a novice, he continues to improve and with stamina unlikely to hold any fears, the winner of the Gold Cup is going to have to go some to get past him.

    Over in Ireland, the Lexus Chase promised to throw up some Gold Cup clues and Djakadam was sent off the 5/4 favourite. However, Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old could only finish third to Outlander who he had beaten on his seasonal reappearance at Punchestown and the pair were split by the enigmatic Don Poli. There wasn’t much between the first four home at the final fence but it was Outlander who found most under Jack Kennedy to race clear and win by a widening two lengths.

    You would have to think that Djakadam underperformed but he has come up short in two Gold Cups already and it is hard to see him going one better this time around, for all he will only be 8 come March. Willie Mullins said afterwards that they might make more use of him next time as he jumped well yesterday and he could be another to head straight to Cheltenham.

    The winner Outlander fell when still holding every chance in the JLT last year but looks set to head back to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup, where he wouldn’t be without a chance. He can still be backed at 20/1 but would prefer a slower surface to be seen to best effect.

    Also news came through today that Coneygree now appears likely to head straight to Cheltenham having suffered a setback in recent days. Sara Bradstock said she was still confident of getting the horse there but that they were more focussed on getting him in perfect shape and also raised the possibility of missing Cheltenham entirely.


     
    Champion Hurdle


    The big mover in the Champion Hurdle market was Yanworth who put aside any fears about him dropping back to two miles with a ready victory in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Alan King’s six-year-old was a shade disappointing when winning on his return to action and it looked for a long way here as though he was struggling before picking up turning for home. Having moved through to lead at the final flight, he raced away from his rivals to hit the line strong and you would have to think that the stiff finish at Cheltenham is likely to suit him in a strongly run Champion Hurdle. He is now a general 5/1 shot for the race which I think is short considering his hurdling is far from fluent and he looked to be out-paced for much of the race. He could still have improvement in him with March in mind but I suspect he is only as short as 5/1 because there are question marks over the two market leaders Faugheen and Annie Power.

    In behind Yanworth was The New One who set out to make all and probably just paid the price for getting racing too early in the latter stages of the race. We know he isn’t good enough to win the Champion Hurdle so I don’t see what connections have to lose by having a go at the World Hurdle, something Sam Twiston-Davies mentioned on Boxing Day. Ch’Tibello ran on well from the back to snatch third but looks some way short of Champion Hurdle class. Whilst My Tent Or Yours looked to have got his ideal conditions but made a tired mistake at the last and it looks as though his best days are behind him.

    We got some more clues this afternoon in the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle as Petit Mouchoir ran out a ready winner. Henry De Bromhead’s five-year-old looked to be travelling as well as anything when coming down at the third last in the Fighting Fifth and gained compensation with this success. He was in front just after the first flight and remained there for the duration, kicking clear on the turn for home and maintaining his advantage to win by seven lengths from Nichols Canyon. He was trimmed to a general 10/1 for the Champion Hurdle and looks a player judged on this effort.

    There was also news of Faugheen in the past couple of days as the former Champion was reported to be working every day and connections are hopeful that they will have him back for the Irish Champion Hurdle on the 29th January. It hasn’t been anything serious that has kept him off the track just a couple of niggles following the stone bruise he suffered a few weeks ago.


     
    Champion Chase


    Willie Mullins’ Douvan once again demonstrated just how far clear of his rivals he is by running away with the Paddy Power Cashcard Chase at Leopardstown on Tuesday. The six-year-old was already short for the Champion Chase but he is now as short as 1/3 with Paddy Power to land the spoils at Cheltenham in March. It is very hard to see anything giving him a race in March and in truth, you could make him favourite for almost any race at the Festival. The Champion Chase crown looks his to lose and barring any setbacks, the rest look to be playing for second and third place.

    Special Tiara made the most of the race conditions being in his favour when winning the Desert Orchid Chase just over an hour later at Kempton. Henry De Bromhead’s nine-year-old had to work pretty hard to see off the challenge of Sir Valentino but was always doing enough and he should be suited by a return to Cheltenham in March. He has been placed at the last two Festivals and if the ground is on the quick side, he should be thereabouts fighting for a place again this year.


     
    Stayers Hurdle


    My ante-post selection Jezki was not declared for the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown with JP McManus represented instead by the French import Kotkikova. Jessica Harrington’s eight-year-old does have an entry at Punchestown at the weekend though, so it will be interesting to see if he lines up there.

    In his absence, Vroum Vroum Mag led home a 1-2 for the Willie Mullins team as stablemate Clondaw Warrior followed the mare home in second. Ruby Walsh always looked confident on the eventual winner and it might have been a Mullins 1-2-3 had Shaneshill not fallen when still in contention at the final flight. In terms of future targets, Vroum Vroum Mag is likely to be pitched in wherever she is needed with both chases and hurdles a viable option come the Festival. She can be backed at 8/1 for the World Hurdle although I suspect she will be a bit shorter if this ends up being her target.


     
    Ryanair


    Following his defeat in the King George, it now appears that Cue Card could be re-routed to the Ryanair, the race he won back in 2013. He was no match for Thistlecrack at Kempton and Native River also looks a viable contender so the Tizzards have raised the possibility of him dropping back in trip, taking in the Grade 1 at Ascot next before heading to Cheltenham. He was introduced as the 5/1 market leader with most firms and although he is a different horse to the one that won three years ago, he would still have to be considered a leading contender.

    Another beaten horse in the King George also looks likely to head to the Ryanair and that is Josses Hill who failed to see out the trip on his first start at 3m. The encouraging thing was his jumping has been much better this term in his two successes at Kempton and Huntingdon as well as in the King George on Monday. Whether he is as effective going left-handed over fences is still a question mark but he was third in the Arkle in the not too distant past so he makes some appeal at 14/1.


     
    Novice Hurdlers


    Supreme


    The big shake-up in the Supreme market came on Boxing Day as the ante-post favourite Jenkins was well-beaten having been sent off the 1/2 favourite for the opening novice hurdle. He had jumped poorly on his hurdling debut at Newbury and here he seemed to be very slow at his obstacles and he found very little when asked to pick up by David Bass. The way he hung after the last perhaps indicated that all was not well with him but he is now as big as 25/1 for the Supreme and that looks a long way off at present.

    25/1 is also the price for the winner of the race Elgin who made it two from two over hurdles for Alan King. His trainer was impressed that the four-year-old seemed to have improved for his run at Newcastle and he settled much better for Wayne Hutchinson here. In terms of future plans, he could go back to Kempton for the Dovecote prior to having a crack at the Festival.

    The Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown can often throw up a nice horse and this time around it went the way of Saturnas who went one better than when chasing home Airlie Beach at Fairyhouse earlier this month. He seemed to appreciate more forceful tactics and whilst I suspect he could come up short in both races, I think he could end up in the Neptune come March.


     
    Neptune


    Willie Mullins has another couple of potential runners in the Neptune including Bacardys who made no mistake when getting off the mark at the second attempt over hurdles earlier this week. Having fallen on his first attempt, the five-year-old still made the odd jumping mistake but had plenty in hand when making his move around the home turn. He clearly has an engine having won the Aintree bumper last year and his trainer intimated afterwards that he could step up in trip next time. He is as big as 20/1 for the Neptune, but we are unlikely to know what race he is lining up in until much nearer the time.


    Battleford also managed to get back to winning ways this afternoon when getting the better of a prolonged duel with Coeur Joyeux at Leopardstown. The five-year-old made quite a few errors on the way round but he definitely seemed to appreciate the step up in trip and he could even go up in trip again. His trainer suggested afterwards that the five-year-old may not be fully fit yet because of his size and whilst further progress can’t be ruled out, he is going to have to take a good step forward to be of interest for the Spring Festivals.
     


    Triumph


    There were quite a number of reputations put to the test in this division in the last week and the one who emerged most favourably was Defi Du Seuil who assumed sole favouritism with an impressive victory in the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow. Philip Hobbs’ three-year-old was well fancied beforehand and had no trouble brushing aside the smart Evening Hush on the run to the third last before stretching clear in the closing stages. He did get a little lonely late on as he made a couple of jumping errors but he had plenty in hand and coasted home to win by thirteen lengths. He does seem to enjoy a bit of cut in the ground so were the ground to come up quick at Cheltenham, it would pose something of a question mark but he is very exciting and at this stage he looks a leading contender for the race.

    In fact, JP McManus looks to hold a strong hand with the army of juveniles at Joseph O’Brien’s disposal and he also introduced a nice horse of Nicky Henderson’s at Kempton on Tuesday in Charli Parcs. This was the horse’s British debut having won a hurdle at Enghien in November and he jumped very well on just his second start. He raced clear of his rivals once sent into the lead at the third last and Noel Fehily barely had to move on him. He was much the best on the day despite conceding at least 5lb to all his rivals and he looks a smart prospect with the Triumph in mind.

    Before Christmas, Joseph O’Brien’s Landofhopeandglory was towards the head of most lists but he now finds himself as big as 12/1 having finished second to old rival Bapaume at Leopardstown on Boxing Day.  The pair had met at Fairyhouse at the beginning of the month but Willie Mullins’ gelding seemed to benefit from the run and in receipt of 3lb, he was able to reverse the placings. I suspect that there will be a couple of horses we haven’t seen yet who will be popular for the Triumph but these two set a decent standard and I don’t see them being too far away on the day.

    Another one to throw into the mix is Meri Devie who made a successful start to her hurdling career at Leopardstown the following day. The three-year-old was beaten less than five lengths in Group 1 company in May on the flat and ran out a ready winner here from the well-touted Housesofparliament. Ruby Walsh believes that she will improve for the run both in terms of her jumping as well as fitness and the 7lb allowance she would receive in the Triumph makes her of serious interest. Further back in the field was Queen’s Vase winner Sword Fighter who will need to jump better if he is to make an impact in this sphere.


     
    Novice Chasers


    Arkle


    The top two in the market both had a run in the past week with Min being the first to showcase his talents on Boxing Day. He was sent off the 4/5F in a race which included Identity Thief but that rival only made it half way down the back straight  as following a few notable errors, he was pulled up and found to be lame. In contrast, Willie Mullins’ five-year-old jumped impeccably out in front and had his rivals in trouble on the run to the last. He made a strange shape at the final fence but got over safely and raced away up the run-in to win impressively. He has a few lengths to find with Altior on last season’s Supreme but the Mullins camp believe that he wasn’t himself that day, so a closer race could well be on the cards.

    Over at Kempton, Altior had no problem seeing off three rivals to land the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase. The six-year-old jumped well the whole way round and having been given a little bit of rein, he moved through to lead at the third last before coasting clear under Noel Fehily. All roads now appear to head towards Cheltenham and the rematch of last year’s Supreme and at this stage it looks hard to split them.

    As for the third home in last year’s Supreme, Buveur D’Air is set to make his second start over fences at Haydock tomorrow. That race is over the best part of 2m3f so it will be interesting to see how he goes up in trip.


     
    RSA


    The Grade 1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown today threw up a few clues with Jessica Harrington’s Our Duke getting the better of Coney Island and Disko in a close finish. The winner had made quite an impression when winning at Navan a few weeks ago and showed a fine attitude to see off his two rivals and land a first Grade 1. With Cheltenham in mind he will need to sharpen up his jumping, as he made the odd error on the way round but the RSA looks made for him and he is now a general 10/1 second favourite behind Bellshill, who won at Limerick on Boxing Day.

    The runner-up Coney Island didn’t lose much in defeat and could also head for the RSA, whilst the fourth home Martello Tower could be an interesting one for the 4 mile National Hunt Chase, although he may need softer ground to be seen to best effect.

    On this side of the Irish Sea, Might Bite has to come into consideration for the RSA as he would have no doubt run out a ready winner of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase but for falling at the final fence. He was well clear at the time and that mistake aside, he jumped pretty well. He also showed a tendency to jump to his left at times which suggests Cheltenham will suit and as long as he is none the worse for this fall, he looks a likely runner.

     
    Misc Races


    Mares Hurdle


    Gordon Elliott’s Missy Tata has now won her last five starts following a convincing success in the Listed Irish Independent Hurdle at Limerick yesterday. She looks to be improving at a rapid rate and although her connections believe she will make a fine chaser next year, they also think she can pick up a big prize before the end of the season. She could now head straight to Cheltenham and whilst no target has been confirmed, this race looks the most likely unless she goes down the handicapping route.

    We also got a first look at Kotkikova yesterday who was a prolific winner in her native France and she shaped with some promise over 3m at Leopardstown. This was as far as she had raced over in her career to date and she looked as though it might have been a bit far for her in the closing stages. I would not be surprised to see her drop back in trip next time and the Mares’ Hurdle looks a sensible target for her.


     
    Cross-Country


    News filtered through this morning that last year’s runner-up and ante-post favourite Josie’s Orders will miss the race having suffered an injury. His stablemate Cantlow who won at Cheltenham in November is now the general 4/1 favourite with most firms ahead of the likes of Alechi Inois, Quantitativeeasing and Any Currency.

     
    Bumper


    The picture for the Champion Bumper looks as murky as always at the moment with most of those towards the head of the ante-post lists trained by Willie Mullins. He introduced his latest smart recruit at Leopardstown yesterday as Carter McKay made a winning debut under Patrick Mullins. A wide margin winner of an Irish point, he was subsequently bought for £165,000 by David Redvers and races in the colours of Pearl Bloodstock. He had to work pretty hard to get the job done on this occasion but I’m sure his connections will be keen to get him to the Festival and he is available at as big as 25/1 for the Champion Bumper.


     
    Bets


    CILAOS EMERY (Supreme Novices) – 1pt e/w @ 12/1 NRNB (Sky Bet)


    The first of two bets suggested this week is this four-year-old who made quite an impression a couple of weeks ago when winning at Navan. The form of that race has been boosted with the runner-up Joey Sasa having won at Leopardstown on Boxing Day and I suspect that the winner could be creeping up the Willie Mullins pecking order. With the below-par run of Jenkins at the weekend, the race looks to have a much more open look to it and it has been pleasing to see this gelding attract support in recent days. Like most of the Willie Mullins novice hurdlers it is hard to know for sure which race they will run in but we have the security of No Runner No Bet in this race so I think he is worth a bet. He should be stepped up in grade before long but his trainer spoke fondly of him after his latest win and I suspect we haven’t seen the best of him yet.

     
    NATIVE RIVER (Gold Cup) – 1pt e/w @ 9/1 (Betway)


    Despite the performance of Thistlecrack at Kempton on Boxing Day, I still have my reservations about his jumping, especially given the way that he tackled the open ditches. I therefore think it is worth looking elsewhere for an angle and in a race in which a lot of the contenders are known entities, the big improver in the race looks to be Native River, who has gone from strength to strength this term.  I was really impressed with the way he drew clear of his rivals at Chepstow before the weight started to take its toll and he looks ready for a crack at Grade 1 company again. His jumping is a major asset as well as his stamina which bodes well for a Gold Cup horse and the potential absence of Coneygree could mean he is allowed to dictate from the front. I think it will take a good one to get past him on the day and at 9/1, I think he looks a good each-way bet, especially with so many doubts surrounding a number of his rivals.


     
    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
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    PART 4



    Gold Cup


    The staying chase division may have needed a lift this week as following the news on Sunday that Coneygree would miss the King George following a unsatisfactory piece of work, it looked as though Kempton’s Boxing Day showpiece would be something of a formality. However, news came on Monday that the owners of Thistlecrack had decided to step the eight-year-old out of novice company and take on stablemate Cue Card in the King George.

    This is clearly going to be the biggest test of Thistlecrack’s chasing career to date and the big question mark is how his jumping will hold up in this more competitive race, likely to be run at a stronger gallop than the three chases he has contested so far. If his jumping does stand up to the rigours of race, then it is hard to argue he won’t have too many gears for his older stablemate but it promises to be quite a clash.

    The Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on the 28th also promises to be an informative race with Valseur Lido set to head there instead of coming over for the King George.

    There was also news of last season’s Gold Cup winner Don Cossack who is reported to be making a steady recovery from the injury he suffered back in April. A programme of cantering and swimming is keeping the nine-year-old ticking over at the minute and his trainer has suggested that he is likely to have one run, possibly in the Red Mills Chase in February before heading straight to the Gold Cup.

    I continue to look at the Gold Cup market with the view that there must be a bet to be had but at the minute I am struggling to find an angle, especially with so many question marks over some of the leading protagonists.



    Champion Hurdle


    The same can be said about the Champion Hurdle for which Annie Power and Faugheen share favouritism in most books at around 5/2, with Yanworth next best at around the 8/1 mark.

    It is probably a reflection of the lack of depth in the 2m hurdling division on this side of the water than Brain Power was introduced into the market at 25/1 following his impressive success at Ascot on Saturday. Of course we didn’t see most of it but he came readily clear under David Mullins in the closing stages and it was some performance under a big weight. Having said that, he still looks some way short of Champion Hurdle class at the moment and would need to improve a good deal to trouble the Irish contenders come March.

    The Christmas Hurdle at Kempton can often have a bearing on the Champion Hurdle market but the race was reopened this morning having attracted just the five runners at the entry stage. We will know more by lunchtime tomorrow but Yanworth, My Tent Or Yours and The New One appear to be likely runners and no doubt Willie Mullins will have something to send over.



    Stayers Hurdle


    Our first bit of housekeeping in this section is to highlight that with Sun Bets having taken over the sponsorship of this race from Ladbrokes, they have decided to change its name back to the Stayers Hurdle, dropping the World Hurdle title which it has carried in recent years.

    To more important news and Unowhatimeanharry solidified his place at the head of the market as he stretched his winning sequence to seven in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday. His task was made somewhat easier by Ballyoptic falling at the last but the eight-year-old found plenty for Barry Geraghty and won with four and a half lengths to spare at the line.

    Back in second was Lil Rockerfeller who once again ran a creditable race although his trainer felt afterwards that he may have found himself further back than ideal. This might have been the case but he certainly saw the three miles out ok and this looks to be his likely target at the Festival.

    As for the final flight faller Ballyoptic this was a much more encouraging performance than his run at Newbury but he seems to be making a habit of falling towards the end of his races. He clearly sticks his neck out for his jockey but if he is having tired falls at Wetherby and Ascot then the likelihood is that he might find the Cheltenham hill a little tricky.

    In terms of our bet for the race, it was good to hear news from the Jessica Harrington team this week that Jezki is all set to return in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown next week. The eight-year-old seems to have taken preparations well and let’s hope he can put in a solid effort on his return to action.



    Novice Hurdlers


    Supreme


    SkyBet were the first firm to go No Runner No Bet (NRNB) on this race on Friday ahead of the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot on Friday. That race went the way of Paul Nicholls’ Capitaine who may have been a shade disappointing when finishing second at Haydock last month, but the quicker ground and the switch to front-running tactics seemed to make a big difference. He beat a field which included the likes of Captain Forez, who shaped well when third behind Jenkins at Newbury as well as two well-regarded Nicky Henderson runners in Lough Derg Spirit and Thomas Campbell. The last two mentioned look ready for a step up in trip now but the winner was trimmed to around 25/1 on the back of this effort.

    Willie Mullins has a number of horses that could potentially line up in the Supreme but I must admit I was impressed with the way Cilaos Emery got the job done at Navan last weekend. The four-year-old was making his first start since landing a bumper at the end of April and had no trouble seeing off more experienced rivals to win by six lengths at the line. It is hard to know how strong the form is in behind but he looks to have an engine and I would like to see him step up in class before long.

    We might get more of an idea of the Mullins pecking order in the next week as the entries for the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown included six from the stable including the likes of Airlie Beach, Penhill and Crack Mome. On this side of the Irish sea, the favourite Jenkins looks set to line-up at Kempton on Boxing Day, having been entered in the opening novice hurdle. The form of his Newbury win has worked out to varying degrees but this promises to be a stiffer test of his credentials.



    Neptune


    Invitation Only was demoted from the head of the Neptune market on Sunday as Willie Mullins’ five-year-old could only finish third behind Gordon Elliott’s Death Duty at Navan. The winner has now assumed favouritism in both this race and the Albert Bartlett, although given he is as short as 9/4 for the latter it seems he is more likely to head down the 3m route. I have to say that I was really impressed with the way Death Duty quickened up given his size and you would have to think that he will relish stepping up in trip before long.

    A possible outsider for the Neptune could be High Bridge who made a winning start to his hurdling career at Newbury last week. The five-year-old was a smart bumper horse for John Ferguson, finishing sixth in the Champion Bumper and he stayed on strongly here to win in some style. This was over 2m but he looks ready for a step up to 2m4f and if he has a potential target at the Festival it is likely to be this.

    Another potential Neptune prospect is Finians Oscar who went a little way to justifying his £250,000 price tag when winning by seven lengths at Hereford yesterday. This Irish point winner is reported to be one of the best young horses in the stable of Colin Tizzard and he had little trouble seeing off course winner Acting Lass who was carrying a penalty. Clearly three miles could be on his radar before the end of the season although Tizzard missed Cheltenham with Thistlecrack a couple of years ago in favour of the Sefton at Aintree and it could be that this four-year-old does the same.



    Albert Bartlett


    Paul Nicholls has yet to win the Albert Bartlett and whilst this contest wasn’t mentioned for either horse, he has introduced a couple of smart 3m prospects in the last week.

    Give Me A Copper cost £270,000 on the back of winning a maiden point and a bumper in Ireland and he had no trouble getting off the mark for Paul Nicholls at Exeter last week. When most of his rivals had cried enough, the six-year-old forged clear under Sam Twiston-Davies to win by fourteen lengths. He is clearly a chaser in the making but he should be able to pick up a nice prize this year and he was introduced at a general 25/1 for the Albert Bartlett.

    His stablemate Topofthegame also looked one for the future when winning at Ascot on Friday, despite having a good look around after the final flight. Thankfully Sam Twiston-Davies got just enough out of him to hold on and he looks sure to be suited by the step up to three miles. He beat Dan Skelton’s No Hassle Hoff but nine lengths in a point-to-point and looks another promising youngster for the Ditcheat team.



    Mares Novice


    I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Camelia De Cotte had attracted support for the Mares Novice Hurdle and Willie Mullins’ four-year-old made a winning start to her career in Ireland at Tramore last week. Sent off the 1/5 favourite Ruby Walsh always looked to have plenty in hand and once he gave her a bit of rein, the four-year-old picked up impressively to win going away from her rivals. She is as short as 5/1 for the Novice in March but can still be backed at 8/1 with a couple of firms.

    Fergal O’Brien has enjoyed a fine start to the season and the mare Colin’s Sister embodies that, having won three times, most recently a Listed hurdle at Haydock last weekend. When she has her conditions she seems to pretty good but her trainer is on record as saying that the further she goes the better so perhaps this 2m contest is not on her radar despite being as short as 12/1.



    Novice Chasers


    Arkle


    Two of the top five in the ante-post market made their chasing debuts last weekend, beginning with last year’s Neptune winner Yorkhill who had no trouble seeing off his rivals at Fairyhouse on Saturday. The six-year-old jumped well throughout but it was noticeable that he was inclined to jump to his left at times. That clearly wouldn’t be as much of an issue at Cheltenham but it might just have been inexperience which caused him to do that. He would clearly have been a leading hope for the Supreme had connections decided to go down that route last year and I suspect that a similar conversation may be had at some stage regarding the Arkle or the JLT. Personally, I would like to see him stick down the 2m route and his trainer indicated afterwards that the Irish Arkle was likely to be his next target.

    The other leading hope to embark on a chasing career at the weekend was Nicky Henderson’s Buveur D’Air who may have finished third to stablemate Altior in the Supreme but he showed he was a talented performer in his own right when winning a Grade 1 at Aintree. Like most of the racing on Saturday it was hard to see much of the race at Haydock but Aidan Coleman was happy to take a lead for the majority of the race before moving through to challenge at the last. Once he was given half a push, he soon quickened clear of the smart Cloudy Dream (who was conceding 8lb to the winner) to win in fine style. He is another who could step up to 2m4f before long and certainly the JLT could come into consideration with the prospect of facing Altior on connections’ minds.

    Cloudy Dream didn’t lose anything in defeat and clearly on level weights it would have been a lot harder for the winner. Malcolm Jefferson is confident that better ground will bring about improvement in his horse, although I suspect he is likely to come up a little short were he to tackle the Arkle.

    Over in Ireland, we could have an interesting clash at Leopardstown as Min and Identity Thief have both been entered to run in the Racing Post Chase. Both look to have bright futures ahead of them over the bigger obstacles and it should give us a better idea of where they stand with the Arkle in mind.



    JLT


    The form of my selection Charbel got a nice boost last week with Le Prezien and Top Notch and both winning again over fences, leading bookmakers to trim them for this race. The former took on a more experienced rival in the shape of L’Ami Serge at Exeter in the week and having jumped well for the most part, stayed on strongly to win going away under Barry Geraghty. The extra couple of furlongs didn’t seem to trouble the five-year-old and the JLT looks the most likely option should he head to the Festival although most of his form has been on soft ground so Spring ground may prove a different kettle of fish for him.

    There was also a lot to like about the performance of Top Notch on Saturday or at least the last couple of fences, where he jumped well before digging up deep late on to hold off his rivals Sizing Codelco and Hammersly Lake. The 2m5f trip may just have stretched him on Saturday so it might be that he misses Cheltenham in favour of the 2m4f chase at Aintree but it is good to see the form working out well for Kim Bailey’s Charbel.

    Another who might have thrown his hat into the ring for this race is Politologue who made just about all to win the Grade 2 Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot on Friday. The five-year-old jumped boldly out in front for Sam Twiston-Davies and was probably just idling when having to be driven out from the back of the last. Paul Nicholls was keen to rule out the RSA as a potential target for the Spring and suggested that he was likely to keep the gelding to 2m4f for the time being. Much like Le Prezien, he still needs to show that he can reproduce that form on better ground but he jumped really well on Friday and looks to have a bright future over the larger obstacles.



    RSA


    Warren Greatrex’s One Track Mind was fancied to make a big impact over fences this term but the six-year-old once again found himself coming up short at Catterick last week. Stepping up to 3m, he never travelled with much fluency and was given reminders on the second circuit by Gavin Sheehan. He kept on eventually to finish third but was some ten lengths behind the Sue Smith trained pair of Delusionofgrandeur and Vintage Clouds. He doesn’t seem to have taken to fences so far so it will be interesting to see where connections go next.

    As for the winner, he looks a strong staying chaser for the future which is typical for the yard and looks a nice horse, whilst the runner-up continues to bump into one, although he should improve as he develops physically.

    One horse who I followed closely as a novice hurdler last year was Rebecca Curtis’ Mystical Knight and he made a winning start to his chasing career at Hereford yesterday. The seven-year-old was wearing a tongue-strap for the first time and it seemed to help him as he won in good style from some horses who were arguably better over hurdles. Clearly something was amiss when he underperformed at Aintree in the Sefton but this dual winning pointer looks to have found his game and he is as big as 33/1 for the RSA at this early stage.

    The final one to mention with regards to this race is Barney Dwan who having made a bad mistake when having the race at his mercy at Kempton, was brought down at Wincanton last week when looking as though he was set to gain compensation. This six-year-old won the EBF Final last year so clearly has an engine and I think he can improve as a chaser. He does need to sharpen up his jumping as he was a bit guessy early on at Wincanton but he is in good hands and should be able to pick up a race before long.



    Bets
    I have no bets to advise this week, I think the next week will give us a clearer picture on a few races so we will keep our powder dry for the time being.



    Ante-Post Portfolio

    JEZKI (World Hurdle) – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 (bet365, Betfred)
    CHARBEL (JLT Novices’ Chase) – 0.5pt e/w @ 33/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook
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    PART 3


    Champion Hurdle

    Nigel Twiston-Davies’ The New One put any talk of novice chasing on hold at the weekend as he landed a third renewal of the International Hurdle under Richard Johnson. In a switch of tactics from normal, the eight-year-old made the running before seeing off the challenge of My Tent Or Yours (to whom he was conceding 8lb) up the hill. It now seems that he will stick down the hurdling route and could go next to Kempton for the Christmas Hurdle before returning to Cheltenham in March for another go at the Champion Hurdle (for which he is as short as 14/1). However, it is worth noting that Twiston-Davies’ assistant trainer Carl Llewellyn thinks it would be better to perhaps go down the World Hurdle route, having come up short in three renewals of the Champion already. I suspect that we will see him on the Tuesday of the Festival rather than the Thursday.

    As for the runner-up, it was another disappointing performance from My Tent Or Yours who was best off at the weights with most of his rivals but having travelled well, he once again found very little when push came to shove. I do think he is a better horse on better ground and once again the conditions transpired against him here, but he now has something to prove on his next start.

    The potential improver in the race looked to be Mister Miyagi but having been badly behaved in the preliminaries he ran no sort of race under Harry Skelton. This ground was probably soft enough for him but he was still some way short of what was expected.

    Champion Chase

    Sunday saw the return to action of the ante-post favourite Douvan and Willie Mullins’ charge could not have been more impressive in dispatching his rivals at Cork. Paul Townend sent the six-year-old into the lead early on and he jumped brilliantly out in front before extending his advantage after the fourth last. He made a slight error at the third last but he raced clear of his rivals on the bridle and he won by 22 lengths despite never appearing to come out of second or third gear. It is worth noting that the second and third Days Hotel and Fine Rightly are unlikely to be of the level of opposition that he will face in March but this was still a very impressive display. At this stage, it looks something of a one-horse race with Douvan now as short as 4/9 and barring any accidents he looks likely to pick up this prize, but there is still a long way to go until we get to March and as we saw with his stablemate Faugheen last year, anything can happen between now and the Festival.

    Gold Cup

    The runner-up in the last two Gold Cups Djakadam made a winning reappearance on Sunday as he landed the John Durkan Memorial Chase for a second consecutive year. Ruby Walsh always had the leaders in his sights aboard the seven-year-old and looked to be going best when moving through to lead on the run to the second last. He was challenged from the back of the last but his stamina soon kicked in and he found plenty on the run to the line to win by one and a quarter lengths. The second and third places were filled by the two Gigginstown runners Outlander and Sub Lieutenant who as we know are both a little short of Grade 1 class but it was still a good performance.

    In terms of the Gold Cup, you would have to think that he is likely to find one too good come March as he has in the last two years but the injury he picked at Cheltenham in January must have interrupted his preparation last season and with a clear run this time perhaps he can put up a career best performance. He is still only seven but he doesn’t jump out as must bet at 10/1 at present.

    Ryanair

    The disappointment of the John Durkan was Black Hercules who was expected to give his stablemate a race but having made a couple of jumping errors on the way round, he dropped away tamely once the pace quickened. Apparently, no obvious reason for the below-par display has come to light but he has turned in the odd puzzling display in the past so perhaps it is best just to put a line through it. Having won the JLT at last year’s Festival the Ryanair seems the logical target and he was pushed out to as big as 14/1 for that race.

    Paul Nicholls’ Frodon was also introduced into the Ryanair market by a couple of firms following his win in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at the weekend. He does still have the option of going down the novice route which would seem more likely at this stage but he continues to improve with racing and I’m sure all options will be kept open until the last minute.



    Novice Hurdlers


    Supreme


    Nicky Henderson’s Jenkins has now assumed favouritism for the Supreme on the back of Pingshou’s victory at Cheltenham on Friday. Colin Tizzard’s charge finished fourth behind Jenkins at Newbury last month and travelled smoothly into contention before quickening away in the closing stages. As for Nicky Henderson’s horse, he could make his next start in the Supreme Trial at Ascot on Friday.

    I mentioned in last week’s post that Crack Mome had attracted support for the Supreme and he made a pleasing start to life over hurdles when winning at Clonmel on Thursday. The Graham Wylie-owned four-year-old came away smartly from his rivals on the run-in and it seems that he will stick down the 2m route. The ground at Clonmel may also have been soft enough for him and whist we are likely to learn more about him next time, he looks a smart prospect.

    Another one who looks worth mentioning is Jessica Harrington’s Sunni May who made it two from two over hurdles when winning at Punchestown on Sunday. The five-year-old is now set to step up in class over Christmas where we are likely to get a gauge on how good he is but he did it nicely on Sunday and looks to have a bright future ahead of him.

    Neptune

    Invitation Only currently leads the market for the Neptune but the Mullins stable also look to have another string to that bow in the shape of Turcagua who made light work of some decent rivals in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday. The six-year-old drew readily clear of wide margin bumper winner Champagne Classic and smart flat performer Toe The Line. He seemed to take a big step forward from his run at that venue on November and looks a chaser in the making. He is available at 25/1 for both the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett.

    On this side of the Irish Sea, Ben Pauling’s Willoughby Court got off the mark at the second attempt over hurdles at Warwick last week. The five-year-old finished fifth in the Grade 2 bumper at Aintree in April and showed a good attitude here to see off Tommy Rapper in the closing stages. At present he looks one for handicaps over this trip but he could benefit from a step up in trip judged on this outing.

    Albert Bartlett


    The Grade 2 Novice Hurdle of the same name at Cheltenham last Saturday saw Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Wholestone win for the third time over hurdles. Having won over 3m here in October, he was touched off over 2m5f here last time but seemed to relish the return to this trip. He found plenty for pressure to see off Ami Desbois up the run-in and he is priced between 16/1 and 20/1 for the Albert Bartlett in March.

    Triumph

    With Landofhopeandglory having impressed on his latest outing a couple of weeks ago, all eyes were on Defi Du Seuil at the weekend to see how he would fare back at Cheltenham on Saturday. He faced a stronger field than he had there in November but the result was the same as Philip Hobbs’ juvenile barely got out of second gear to dispatch the Wetherby winner Coeur De Lion. The Finale at Chepstow was mentioned in the aftermath although that might come soon enough but the Triumph is the main target this season and he is now a general 8/1 for the race.

    We probably haven’t seen most of the strings in Paul Nicholls’ juvenile bow but to date his best looks to be Cliffs Of Dover who made it six from seven over hurdles when winning the Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster at the weekend. I suspect that he is some way behind the current market leaders in terms of ability but he is tough and looks to have earned his place in the field.

    Over in Ireland, there was an impressive debut performance from Dinaria Des Obeaux who turned the 3yo maiden hurdle into a precession at Cork on Sunday. Gordon Elliott’s juvenile won a bumper in France in April and looks to have earned a step up in grade on the back of this 29 lengths success. She was introduced at a general 20/1 for the Triumph on the back of this debut victory.

    Mares Novice


    Willie Mullins looks to have plenty of darts to throw at this race but another stable who could have a strong hand is Nicky Henderson who could saddle Kayf Grace who had no trouble getting off the mark at the first attempt over hurdles at Bangor on Friday. The six-year-old got the better of Augusta Kate in the Grade 2 Mares’ Bumper at Aintree in April and took to hurdling well, quickening nicely clear on the run to the line. She is as big as 12/1 whereas Augusta Kate is around half that price but is still early days with her and it will be interesting to see how she fares next time.



    Novice Chasers


    JLT

    Before reflecting on any performances, we have news on a couple of the ante-post market leaders including the favourite Yorkhill who looks set to make his chasing debut in Ireland this weekend. He is far from guaranteed to run in the JLT as I get the impression that connections are keen to have a go at the Arkle if possible but we know he is a high-class hurdler and he looks to have all the credentials to go to the very top over fences.

    Clan Des Obeaux laid down his own marker when winning at Newbury last month and Paul Nicholls has said that he is likely to make his next start in the Dipper Novices Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

    Those two are split in the market by American Tom who won on his chasing debut at Punchestown, getting the better of the smart Gangster. This was just his third career start and his second success since joining Willie Mullins. He should appreciate going left handed having jumped that way for much of the race and with this experience under his belt, he should be able to be competitive up in grade.

    They could be joined in this race by O O Seven who was a disappointing favourite when stepped up to three miles at Doncaster at the weekend. He had won well over 2m4f at Cheltenham on his reappearance and having come up short on Saturday, I suspect he will drop back in trip for his next assignment.

    RSA

    Getting the better of O O Seven on Saturday was Paul Nicholls’ Present Man who followed up his handicap success at Ascot with another game performance under Jack Sherwood. He got the better of Potters Legend who finished second and can be backed at 33/1 for the RSA.

    Slightly shorter in the market for the RSA is Whisper who got back to winning ways at Cheltenham despite the lesser fancied of the two Henderson runners beforehand. He was ridden patiently by Davy Russell which he seemed to enjoy and he found enough for pressure to see off Baron Alco up the Cheltenham hill.

    The disappointment of the race was Different Gravey whose jumping badly let him down on this occasion. It didn’t look as though there was anything wrong with him afterwards but this might send connections back to the drawing board and he is likely to see his sights lowered in a bid to get some confidence back.



    Bets

    I have no bets to advise this week.



    Ante-Post Portfolio

    JEZKI (World Hurdle) – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 (bet365, Betfred)
    CHARBEL (JLT Novices’ Chase) – 0.5pt e/w @ 33/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook
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    PART 2



    Champion Hurdle


    Faugheen missed another potential return last week as the eight-year-old did not feature amongst the declarations for the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday. However, having missed the Morgiana with a bruise, Patrick Mullins reported on Friday that the gelding was back in work but that they were keen to wait until he was really sparkling before sending him back to the racecourse. Christmas looks a likely target with both the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, which he has won for the past two seasons or the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown both potential starting points.

    In his absence, the Hatton’s Grace produced a thrilling renewal with Apple’s Jade getting the better of Faugheen’s stablemate Vroum Vroum Mag in a head-bobbing finish. The winner had the benefit of race fitness and she seemed to appreciate the step up in trip as she battled back gamely on the far side to hold off her rival. She is as short as 12/1 for the Champion Hurdle on the back of this but you would have to think that the Mares’ Hurdle looks more likely at this stage. There doesn’t look to be much between these two and a glance at the betting for the Mares Hurdle tells you a similar story.

    Away from the racecourse, one interesting piece of news to come out this week was that Yanworth is likely to stick down the two mile route, in a bid to keep him away from Unowhatimeanharry, who wears the same colours. He has been given an entry in the International Hurdle at the weekend but I understand that is as a back-up for My Tent Or Yours so it might be that we see him next at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle. Personally, I felt that going up in trip was the only way to go following his laboured display in the Coral Hurdle and although he is as short as 10/1 for the Champion Hurdle, I would be surprised if he were good enough to break the Mullins stranglehold on the race.

    I briefly alluded to this weekend’s International Hurdle a little earlier and this could offer some clues with Mister Miyagi, My Tent Or Yours, Old Guard and The New One all believed to be likely participants. Some of them have plenty to prove with March in mind but it looks a decent renewal and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.



    Champion Chase


    Sandown’s Tingle Creek attracted more attention last week for those not present than those who did turn up but despite Douvan swerving that engagement in favour of running at Cork this weekend, we were still treated to a pulsating renewal.

    The race still went to the Master of Closutton as Un De Sceaux prevailed from Sire De Grugy despite making a mistake at the final two fences. If anything it was Un De Sceaux’s stamina which just gave him the advantage in the closing stages and unless it was soft ground, I find it hard to see winning a Champion Chase at the second attempt. I think we can all agree that Sire De Grugy’s best days are behind him and the close-up third God’s Own ran a fine race considering his blunder at the second fence but I think it is fair to say that we know his limitations with March in mind.

    The one to take out of the race has to be Ar Mad who set out to make all under Joshua Moore but his jumping went to pieces briefly down the back straight. Sandown can do that to horses as the fences come up so quickly but it was encouraging to see him get back on an even keel and run on so strongly in the closing stages. It is no surprise to hear Gary Moore is considering stepping him up in trip but I wouldn’t bet against him reversing the form with those three if they met again. The question mark re the Champion Chase is that he has yet to prove he is as effective going left-handed and whilst the Ryanair would also be a viable option, I don’t think the Champion Chase has been completely ruled out just yet.



    World Hurdle


    Not much to talk about here other than what I have already mentioned above re Unowhatimeanharry. With Alan King’s Yanworth being kept away from the Long Walk Hurdle, it would appear that Harry Fry’s eight-year-old will represent the McManus operation in that race. In terms of the World Hurdle, he is now as short as 9/2 with the unlikely participant Faugheen, the only one ahead of him in the betting.



    Gold Cup


    The John Durkan Chase at Punchestown on Sunday is likely to see one of the Gold Cup contenders start their season off as Djakadam could attempt to defend his crown. A runner-up in the last two renewals of the Gold Cup, Willie Mullins’ gelding is still only seven and if he returns in the same form as he did twelve months ago, it is likely his price for the Gold Cup will contract come Sunday evening. It is worth bearing in mind that he is one of eight entries from the Mullins stable but at this stage he appears a likely runner.

    Jonjo O’Neill’s Minella Rocco attracted some support for the Gold Cup at big prices last week but his supporters’ confidence will have been dented by the crashing fall at the final fence at Aintree on Saturday. He looked held on the run to that fence before coming down and I suspect that he is some way short of Gold Cup class and I imagine he will step back into handicap company for his next run. The winner of that race was Many Clouds who made all under Leighton Aspell and despite running in the Gold Cup in the past, I suspect that his campaign is likely to be geared towards regaining his Grand National crown.



    Ryanair


    As well as Un De Sceaux and Ar Mad being trimmed for this race following the Tingle Creek, Josses Hill also threw his hat into the ring with a fine front-running display in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Sunday. It is fair to say that Nicky Henderson’s gelding has had his fair share of problems jumping the larger obstacles but despite jumping a couple a little big, he jumped well on the whole under Noel Fehily. His trainer mentioned afterwards that he thinks he probably prefers going right-handed and that good ground is definitely important to him showcasing his best. He was eighth in the Ryanair this year but if he can hold his jumping together, he has the class to finish a good deal closer this time around.



    Novice Hurdlers


    Supreme


    Willie Mullins’ Airlie Beach was introduced at 14/1 for the Supreme following her surprise victory in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday. The six-year-old is now unbeaten in seven starts under rules and she made just about all under Ruby Walsh to win with six and a half lengths to spare. There is no doubt her cause was aided by the fall of the favourite Peace News at the second last but she quickened away impressively and we have yet to see the limit of her abilities. Clearly there are plenty of options for her including the Mares Novice Hurdle but this is a strong piece of form.

    As for Peace News, Henry De Bromhead’s four-year-old hadn’t been asked for an effort when coming down and he could be worth sticking with if he sharpens up his jumping. He remained unchanged in the Supreme market at around 14/1 with most firms following this mishap.

    One of the more interesting moves in this market this week was the one for Crack Mome, a Graham Wylie-owned four-year-old in the care of Willie Mullins. He won his only start in a French bumper and has a couple of upcoming entries at Clonmel on Thursday and Navan on Saturday so he could be worth keeping an eye on considering he is already as short as 14/1 for this race.



    Neptune


    Last week’s Grade 2 Novice Hurdle at Sandown on Friday may have thrown up a few Neptune clues with Messire Des Obeaux defying a penalty to get the better of last season’s Champion Bumper winner Ballyandy. It is fair to say that Alan King’s four-year-old looked booked for third between the final two flights but once the stamina came into play up the Sandown hill, he responded gamely to get his head in front and win by half a length. Daryl Jacob commented afterwards that he was a real galloper and that he could next head to the Challow Hurdle at Newbury. The bookmakers weren’t terribly moved as he remains as big as 25/1 for the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett.

    As for the runner-up, he had looked as though he would appreciate the step up in trip and whilst he may have done, despite the conditions of the race favouring him, he was unable to get his head in front. He was pushed out to a general 20/1 for the Neptune and for the time being, it seems Nigel Twiston-Davies will have to go back to the drawing board.

    The winner could be joined in the Challow Hurdle by Geordie Des Champs defied a double penalty to win at Chepstow on Saturday. Rebecca Curtis’ five-year-old seems to be coming along nicely at present and looks to have earned a step up in class, which should tell us more about his likely Spring targets.



    Triumph


    Joseph O’Brien continues to have a stranglehold on the Triumph Hurdle market and the current ante-post favourite Landofhopeandglory made it three from three over obstacles when winning the Grade 3 Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday. It looked a strong field beforehand with Gordon Elliott saddling the impressive Down Royal winner Mega Fortune and the Mullins yard was represented by French hurdles winner Bapaume. It was these three who fought out the finish with the favourite responding generously to pressure once Barry Geraghty got stuck in after the last. He seems to be improving with each run over hurdles and should now head for the Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas. He is a general 7/1 shot for the Triumph at this stage but it is worth bearing in mind that we have yet to see his stablemates Housesofparliament and Sword Fighter (who were both rated higher on the flat) run over hurdles.

    On this side of the Irish Sea, Defi Du Seuil looks the one with most potential at this stage of the season and he could get another chance to showcase his talents at Cheltenham this weekend. He could face a couple of winners in the shape of Cliffs Of Dover and Domperignon Du Lys which should tell us more about the ability he possesses.

    We might also gain some clues up at Doncaster as they host the Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle which was won by Peace And Co a couple of years ago. Alan King has a couple of entries both here and at Cheltenham and it will be interesting to see which way he decides to go with his representatives.

    The last performance to mention here was that of Evening Hush who won for the second time over hurdles for Evan Williams at Aintree on Saturday. Having made all at Exeter on her hurdling debut, she repeated the trick here, setting an even pace in front and her rivals looked to be struggling from some way out. Whether she goes down the Triumph route is unclear at this stage but she is clearly talented and she also has the option of the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at the Festival.



    Novice Chasers


    Arkle

    We got chance to see the Arkle favourite in action on Saturday as Altior took on three rivals in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown. Having completed what was effectively a schooling session at Kempton a couple of weeks ago, this was much more of a test for Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old and he made a couple of jumping errors early on before warming to the task. Noel Fehily was keen to keep hold of him and having tracked Charbel going to the last, he swept clear under hands and heels to win by six lengths. That acceleration from the back of the last showed just how talented a performer he is and if he does some work on his jumping, he looks the one they have to beat at the Festival.

    I was also impressed with the run of Charbel in second and his trainer confirmed afterwards that they would look to step him up in trip going forward. He jumps well and could reappear in the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.



    JLT


    A couple of potential JLT horses emerged in the last week including Its’afreebee who bounced back from a below-par run at Cheltenham to win at Wetherby on Saturday. The fitting of a tongue-tie for the first time seemed to make all the difference and the six-year-old was eased down close home to win impressively by seven lengths. In behind him was the 2015 World Hurdle winner Cole Harden who was returning from an absence but he was still a shade disappointing. Much like his stablemate One Track Mind a week before he jumped very big and never really got into a rhythm over his fences. A step up to 3m should show him in a better light but he has plenty to prove over the larger obstacles as it stands.

    Another who threw his hat into the ring was Alan Fleming’s Tully East who made a winning debut over fences at Thurles on Thursday. Denis O’Regan was reported to be very impressed with the six-year-old who could now step into Grade 1 company for his next assignment. He was fourth in the Martin Pipe at last year’s Festival and this gelding promises to be a better chaser than he was a hurdler.

    It is also worth noting that Barry Geraghty doesn’t often head to Catterick on a Wednesday but he was there last week to partner Laissez Dire on his chasing debut. The four-year-old was a dual winner over hurdles in France and having accounted for the useful Work In Progress on the bridle, he looks to have a bright future ahead of him.



    RSA


    The Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase may be run over 2m4f but it often throws up plenty of clues for the RSA and the winner Coney Island looks sure to appreciate the step up to 3m in the future. Eddie Harty’s five-year-old jumped well in the hands of Mark Walsh and he found plenty once challenged after the last. This may have been a small surprise on the day but there didn’t seem to be any fluke about this and he could bid to follow up at Leopardstown over Christmas.

    Back in second was Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly who seemed to run his race but just couldn’t pick up as well as the winner in the closing stages. He might just have been outstayed by the winner and could stick to this intermediate trip for the time being. Of the rest, Alpha Des Obeaux remains popular towards the head of the market for the RSA having attempted to make all here under Mark Enright. He is another who should appreciate a more searching test of stamina for his next assignment.

    Martello Tower also threw his hat into the mix by getting off the mark at the second attempt on Saturday at Fairyhouse. The eight-year-old found 2m1f on the sharp side at Navan a few weeks ago but the 2m5f trip was much more suitable on this occasion and she showed a fine attitude to hold off the pursuing A Genie In A Bottle. This former Albert Bartlett winner should enjoy going back over three miles at some stage and he is the sort who tends to just do enough.

    In Britain, Aux Ptits Soins made no mistake at Kelso on Sunday when getting off the mark at the second time of asking. He looked in need of the run at Exeter last month following a long absence but he stripped much fitter for this outing and had to dig deep to hold off the useful Westren Warrior close home. To be honest I was expecting a little more from him here but it is still early days and he should improve with experience.

    The final one to mention Champers On Ice made a winning start to his chasing career at Uttoxeter today, getting the better of Kim Bailey’s Dueling Banjos. He seemed inclined to jump slightly to his left throughout the race and despite the odd mistake late on, he never really looked like getting beat. We are likely to learn more as the season goes on and he is stepped up in grade but this was an encouraging start to life over fences.



    Bets

    CHARBEL (JLT Novices’ Chase) – 0.5pt e/w @ 33/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook)

    I briefly mentioned above that I had been impressed with the run of Charbel on Saturday behind Altior with Kim Bailey’s five-year-old having jumped well for most of the way before succumbing to Altior’s potent turn of foot. In the aftermath, his trainer has confirmed that the intention is to go up in trip with him and he even mentioned that his most likely target at the Festival would be the JLT, although he would also get an entry in the Arkle.

    I was therefore surprised to see that a couple of bookmakers still have him as big as 33/1 for that race, especially when you consider that Top Notch and Le Prezien (who he has already beaten over fences) are around half that price. Charbel has some form around Cheltenham having finished fifth in the Supreme and he may have finished closer but for a mistake at the final hurdle. The Henry VIII Novices’ Chase often serves as a good guide to the JLT with Taquin Du Seuil having been placed in this prior to winning the JLT and Bristol De Mai was placed in both races last year. I am aware that Charbel will need to continue to improve to win a race of this nature but he has already shown signs that he will be a better chaser than a hurdler and I think he is worth a small each-way bet at 33/1.



    Ante-Post Portfolio

    JEZKI (World Hurdle) – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 (bet365, Betfred)

    CHARBEL (JLT Novices’ Chase) – 0.5pt e/w @ 33/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook
  21. Like
    arsenalfh reacted to beaker1 in My Ante-post Diary   
    Last year I decided to do a Ante-post diary which resulted in a 19 points profit overall thanks to victories for Thistlecrack (3/1), Don Cossack (7/1), On The Fringe (5/2) and Ballyandy (12/1) as well as healthy each-way returns on the likes of My Tent Or Yours (20/1), Buveur D’Air (12/1), Yanworth (9/1) and Bloody Mary (14/1).

    For those of you who may be new to my Ante-post Diary, 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
     
    PART 1



    Champion Hurdle



    Annie Power heads most lists for the Champion Hurdle but she missed her first possible engagement of the season in the Morgiana Hurdle having reported to have worked badly in the week leading up to Punchestown. There is no long term concern about the mare and with the Mullins bandwagon yet to get fully rolling it shouldn’t be too long before she is out.

    Her stablemate Faugheen, with whom she also shares favouritism for the Day one showpiece missed the same race with a bruised foot. He has not been seen on the racecourse since running away with Irish Champion Hurdle last January and this slight niggle has delayed his comeback further.

    Despite those notable absences, Mullins was able to record a sixth successive victory in the race courtesy of Nichols Canyon who made just about all to win by twelve lengths under Ruby Walsh. The visibility was poor at Punchestown so it is hard to know just how good he was but he was well on top as he appeared out of the gloom over the final hurdle. He is best priced 25/1 for the Champion Hurdle, in which he finished third last year, although it was indicated afterwards that he would be going up in trip which suggests the World Hurdle is more likely to be on his agenda than the Champion.

    In fact the current Champion Hurdle market has a number of horses on the list who are unlikely to take their chances with the likes of Yorkhill, Altior, Buveur D’Air and Min all seemingly likely to head over the larger obstacles this winter. That means that at present we have two horses at around 5/2 and the rest are 16/1 bar, which might suggest that there is an each-way bet to be had but there isn’t anything that jumps out at present.

    Ch’Tibello got the better of Melodic Rendezvous and My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle a couple of weeks ago but for all Dan Skelton’s five-year-old improving, I find it hard to see him ending up as Champion Hurdle class by the end of the season. The disappointment of the race was My Tent Or Yours who travelled well for much of the way but just couldn’t pick up in the heavy ground and Noel Fehily wasn’t overly hard on him. He should be better on a sounder surface in something like the Christmas Hurdle but he will be ten come March and despite his fine effort last season, you would have to think his best days are behind him.

    The Fighting Fifth last weekend also failed to throw up any Champion Hurdle clues as Irving got the better of Apple’s Jade in a tight finish. We know enough about Irving to know he isn’t a real top drawer performer and the runner-up will be stepping up in trip for her next assignment. It is worth mentioning that Petit Mouchoir was going as well as anything when coming down three out and despite that fall he could be the one to take out of the race.

    The disappointment of the race was Sceau Royal who came here on the back of smooth successes at Cheltenham and Wincanton but he seemed to struggle on this slower surface. After starting the season well last year his form tailed off and it might be that he is one who runs best fresh. Regardless of the reason for his below-par display, this run confirmed if it weren’t already apparent that he is some way short of Champion Hurdle class.



    Champion Chase



    Willie Mullins has the market leader for another of the championship races here as Douvan who won all six of his starts as a novice last season, is currently best-priced 8/11 to be the Champion Chaser come March. If you had to ask me now what would win the Champion Chase, clearly this chap would be top of the list and despite the six-year-old holding entries in the John Durkan over 2m4f and the King George over 3m, all the indications are that the Queen Mother Champion Chase will be his primary target come the Spring. He was close to faultless last season and personally I think he would have an excellent chance in the Champion Hurdle were something to happen to either of his stablemates. At this stage it looks his to lose but there is plenty of water to go under the bridge before March so there is no appeal in 8/11.

    In terms of opposition, his closest market rival at this stage is Fox Norton who is two from two this term, having added the Shloer Chase to his handicap success at Cheltenham last month. He was purchased by Ann & Alan Potts after his reappearance win and they chose to move the horse from the yard of Neil Mulholland to Colin Tizzard. The six-year-old was a ready winner of that Grade 2 contest but personally I think 7/1 is plenty short enough at this stage. I don’t think there is any doubt that he has improved over the summer but when you consider he was beaten 11 lengths by Douvan in the Arkle and 32 lengths by Douvan at Aintree, he looks to have plenty more improving to do yet. He also sustained a cut in his latest victory which means he misses this weekend’s Tingle Creek but all being well he should be back for a Spring campaign.

    It could be that Willie Mullins has two of the biggest “dangers” to Douvan in the shape of Un De Sceaux and Champagne Fever. The former had his limitations exposed in the Champion Chase back in March as he just couldn’t quicken with Sprinter Sacre on a sounder surface, although he did run on in the closing stages. He won over 2m5f at Auteuil in May and he looks likely to be stepped up in trip this term. Champagne Fever didn’t make it to the track last term but despite being keen and fresh on his reappearance, he managed to get his head in front, landing a Listed Chase at Thurles just last week. That was over 2m6f but afterwards his trainer raised the possibility of him going back in trip and although he suggested that 2m in a Grade 1 might be asking a lot, he didn’t rule it out.

    On this side of the Irish Sea, it could be that Gary Moore holds all of the cards and he will have been delighted to see Sire De Grugy get back to winning ways at Ascot a couple of weeks ago. Jamie Moore was frank in his assessment of the ten-year-old’s chances in Grade 1 company afterwards suggesting that he didn’t have much chance of beating Douvan and it is hard to see him making an impact on the Champion Chase.

    Moore’s best chance could be Ar Mad who improved out of all proportion last term winning his last four starts over fences including the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown in December. He suffered a condylar fracture in the lead up to the Festival last term which saw him miss the rest of the campaign and we should learn more about his wellbeing this weekend. He has entries in both the Tingle Creek and the Peterborough Chase and we should see where we stand with him. The one question we have yet to answer is whether he is as good left-handed but I suspect we might not know that until March.

    The last of Moore’s potential Champion Chasers is Traffic Fluide although in a recent blog, Moore suggested that the six-year-old would not be seen until February at the earliest.



    World Hurdle



    With last year’s runaway World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack now bound for a career over fences, it seems the only chance of him running in this race is if something went awry on his next two outings. If this is the case then it gives the race an open look, especially when you consider that Faugheen currently heads most markets. Whilst it is true that the eight-year-old won a novice hurdle over three miles in his younger days, in the last two years over two miles, he has proved himself arguably as one of the best Champion hurdlers ever. Of course I realise that connections also have Annie Power but I think throwing Faugheen in here would be the wrong option, for all I think he would probably win.

    As always there are last season’s novices who will be bidding to make an impact in open company and Unowhatimeanharry put down a sizeable marker when winning the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last Friday. The eight-year-old won with plenty in hand on the day under Barry Geraghty and given his form at Cheltenham as a novice it is easy to see why this race is likely to be high on his list of targets. Back in second was Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Ballyoptic who didn’t jump as well as he can, perhaps an impact of his fall at Wetherby last month. At this stage he looks to have plenty to find if he is to become a World Hurdle contender.

    Alan King’s Yanworth is high on many lists and his performance in the Coral Hurdle this month suggested that he was more of a World Hurdle horse than a Champion Hurdle horse. He showed a good attitude to wear down the game Lil Rockerfeller and win with three-quarters of a length to spare. On the face of it, the performance was slightly underwhelming but I think he might just have needed the race more than connections thought and he still had enough to get the job done. I suspect that stepping up to three miles will probably bring about further improvement but I still think he is short enough at around 8/1.

    If we have an early contender for a novice chaser going back over hurdles it could be One Track Mind who made a mistake at the first on his chasing debut last week and it didn’t get much better after that. The Grade 1 winning hurdler eventually completed but ran well below expectations and whilst connections are keen to stick down the chasing route for the time being, he could be one worth watching if switched back to the smaller obstacles come the Spring.

    I will actually be putting a bet up in the World Hurdle this week but you will have to wait a little longer to find out who it is.



    Gold Cup



    There is only one place to start with the Gold Cup as the major seismic disturbance in the Gold Cup market was the loss of Vautour earlier this month. A brilliant horse both over hurdles and fences, he turned in some devastating displays at Cheltenham, most notably in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the JLT Novices’ Chase. Much was made of his Cheltenham target last Spring and a poor piece of work meant he went down the Ryanair route rather than Gold Cup. Personally, I found it hard to see him lasting the 3m2f of a Gold Cup trip but I suppose we will never know.

    Looking ahead to March, it is something of a strange market at present as we find ourselves with a novice who has only raced over fences three times heading the field. Of course the novice that I am referring to is Thistlecrack who carried all before him over hurdles last year and has been sent over fences this year with the target of becoming the second novice since Captain Christy in 1974 to win the race as a novice. Now, I should start by saying that you would be hard-pushed to find a bigger supporter of this horse than me as I have had him in my Jumpers to Follow list since he won at Wincanton in early 2015, however I think his price is quite absurd at present. His jumping was much better at Newbury on Saturday particularly at the open ditches, which had caused his supporters some alarm at Cheltenham on his second start but he did most of that in second or third gear. The test will come when he has to travel in fourth or fifth gear and then we will see just how his jumping holds up, but in reality we probably aren’t going to see that scenario until the Festival (unless connections decide to take in the King George over Christmas). With all of those questions still to answer 7/2 is too short and I think it means that there are others in the market who could be too big.

    Clearly his stablemate Cue Card looks to have plenty going in his favour and in the opinions of many, he would have won in March had he stood up. Personally I don’t subscribe to that view but he is a high-class chaser as we saw when bouncing back from a below-par return to land the Betfair Chase a couple of weeks ago. The way he cruised clear of some smart rivals including the returning Coneygree suggested he retains all of his ability at the age of ten and that he will once again be a force come March. He will be eleven by the time Cheltenham comes around though and surely there are more appealing options.

    As for the returning Coneygree, I thought he ran well for a long way, jumping boldly under Richard Johnson but he just got understandably tired in the closing stages. His trainer admitted afterwards that he probably had him a bit short and the heavy ground will have only exaggerated the tiredness. With that run under his belt, how he fares in either the King George or the Lexus over Christmas is likely to show us how much ability he retains.

    Last weekend also threw up a third potential Gold Cup runner for the Tizzard team as Native River showed some fine qualities to win the Hennessy at Newbury. He gallops and stays very well which suggests that he would be suited by the gruelling test of a Gold Cup but I’m not sure he has the requisite class to actually win the race.

    As for last year’s winner Don Cossack, reports on his wellbeing were quite bleak through the summer but just last weekend his trainer indicated that the nine-year-old was back cantering. He suggested that a return was not imminent and that his likely schedule was to have one run around February before heading straight to Cheltenham. He is as big as 12/1 for the race which seems big at the minute but there isn’t much sense in backing him at the moment.

    I think we will just let time tick by for a few weeks on the Gold Cup because it is still early days (especially without NRNB) for us to be making a selection with so many factors yet to become clear.



    Novice Hurdlers



    Novices over both sets of obstacles can be notoriously hard to pin down to races because as well as ability, targets are often also dictated by what else the yard has in the race or whether there looks to be a standout performer in the race. With that in mind, I don’t want to get too bogged down in which races horses are likely to target but I have split them up in the copy according to which races they look likely to end up in at present.



    Supreme



    Our first clues in the Supreme market came as early as September as Moon Racer and Ballyandy lit up a fixture at Perth by taking each other on in a novice hurdle. Racing close together throughout, it was David Pipe’s seven-year-old who found a little extra after the last to win by three-quarters of a length.

    The pair renewed acquaintances about six weeks later at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting and with Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse getting a 4lb pull in the weights, he was fancied to reverse the placings with that rival. However, that proved not to the case as, in a steadily run affair, Moon Racer quickened up the Cheltenham hill to win readily and stake his claim as a Supreme horse. He now finds himself as short as 6/1 for the Supreme and having only been beaten once to date, it is hard to look past him. As for Ballyandy, I suspect he will end up in the Neptune and personally I think he would have a leading chance if lining up.

    Throughout the summer there are often horses who are talked about with the following year’s Cheltenham in mind and one such horse this time around was Senewalk who found himself as 8/1 favourite for the Supreme without having run in Britain or Ireland. However, he made his debut at Punchestown just over a week ago and having looked ok for most of the race, he faded tamely after the third last and was well beaten. His trainer Willie Mullins seemed to indicate afterwards that he felt the horse might have a wind problem but may give him the rest of the campaign off and bring him back as a novice next year.

    A similar talking horse has been Jenkins who was a wide-margin winner of a Newbury bumper in April before finishing a close second at Punchestown later that month. Nicky Henderson’s four-year-old was well touted ahead of his hurdling debut last week at Newbury and despite being a little untidy with his jumping, he really picked up in the closing stages to win impressively under Barry Geraghty. There is still plenty for him to work on as he showed plenty of inexperience but he couldn’t be in better hands and it is no surprise to see him high up on many ante-post lists.

    A couple of other Henderson inmate who made a winning start to his seasons was Lough Derg Spirit. The four-year-old won a novice hurdle at Kempton at the beginning of last week, jumping accurately before coasting clear between the final two flights under Jeremiah McGrath. He was very professional and having been bought for £190,000 in May, he looks to have a bright future ahead of him. Having come from the Irish pointing field it is no surprise that he is more forward in his development but he could end up in the Neptune come the end of the season.



    Neptune



    Looking at the intermediate race in the novice hurdling division, it was hard not to be impressed with Robin Roe, who made a winning debut over hurdles at Aintree in October. The winning pointer was successful on his only bumper start last term and there was a lot to like about the way he won at Aintree. He really powered clear of his rivals after the last and was eased down close home to win with twelve lengths to spare at the line. He could now head to the Challow Hurdle over Christmas, where we are likely to learn more about where he stands with the other leading novices.

    Gordon Elliott’s Death Duty also threw his hat into the ring with an impressive victory in the Grade 3 Monksfield Novices’ Hurdle, his second victory over hurdles to date. The five-year-old travelled strongly to the second last, before stretching clear of his rivals and was only pushed out to the line to win by an extended seven lengths. He had some pretty smart bumper form and looks to have either the Neptune or Albert Bartlett as suitable targets come the Spring.

    His target could be determined by where his stablemate Blow By Blow is steered, as the five-year-old now with Gordon Elliott looks likely to play a major role wherever he turns up in March. He is the only horse to have beaten Moon Racer in public and having moved to the Elliott yard from Willie Mullins over the summer, his reappearance is eagerly anticipated. In a recent stable tour his new trainer suggested that he probably wanted a trip but at this stage plans looks pretty fluid.



    Albert Bartlett



    As well as Death Duty, Gigginstown look to have another useful staying novice in the shape of Blood Crazed Tiger who is so far three from three over hurdles. The five-year-old also seems to have relished the step up to three miles on his last two starts including when winning in Listed company earlier this month. There is no doubt that he will need to improve on the form he has shown so far to be fancied in a race like this but he finds plenty for pressure and in a race where attrition is often the order of the day.

    It is a long way off but one horse who I thought might improve for a step up in trip is Elegant Escape who made it two from two over hurdles when winning at Ascot a couple of weeks ago. He looked to be losing the argument on more than one occasion in the 2m 5f contest but rallied gamely to get the better of Laser Light and in the end, looked to outstay his rival. He was only beaten narrowly in a point-to-point in April and it would be no surprise if 3m became his trip before the end of the season.



    Triumph



    It is too early to be even considering a bet in the Triumph as we most likely haven’t heard of the leading contenders just yet. Having said that I think it is worth highlighting a couple of performances which have taken the eye in the early part of the season.

    Joseph O’Brien played a big part in Ivanovich Gorbatov winning in March and he looks to have a strong team of juveniles to go to war with this year now that the license is in his own name. He has acquired a number of cast-offs from Coolmore and one such horse Landofhopeandglory looks to have a bright future having won both of his starts over hurdles to date. It is worth noting that on both occasions his main rivals have been from his own stable but he was rated 102 on the flat and on what we have seen so far, he looks to have plenty of potential over obstacles.

    The other one to mention is Philip Hobbs’ Defi Du Seuil who won with his head in his chest at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting. He cruised round under Barry Geraghty and quickened up well when squeezed to win with plenty in hand. I’m not sure the form of those in behind is up to much but he was much better than them on the day and he seems to enjoy a bit of cut in the ground.



    Novice Chasers



    Arkle


    I mentioned last year when advising Vaniteux for the Arkle how much Nicky Henderson’s runners are to be respected and although that particular horse could not deliver the goods, he looks to have the one to beat this year in the shape of Altior. Last season’s Supreme winner looked a chaser all over last year in terms of his size and he made no mistake at Kempton on his chasing bow earlier this month. In truth it turned into more of a schooling session than a race with his only rival unable to go the gallop but Noel Fehily was suitably impressed with the ante-post favourite. I suspect that we will get a better idea of his chasing prowess this weekend as he looks set to take in the Henry VII Novices’ Chase at Sandown in which he is likely to take on some higher class rivals. Sandown is notoriously tricky particularly over two miles as the test is so relentless and this should be a good test of his metal.

    His nearest market rival at this stage is Min who chased him home in the Supreme in March and looks set to renew acquaintances at some stage this term. He made his chasing debut at Navan at the weekend and he was just about foot perfect in a field of seventeen. Ruby Walsh made sure he was towards the head of affairs throughout so the five-year-old had a clear sight of his fences and he jumped well. He went up a couple of gears between the final two fences and having popped the last, he stretched clear to win well at the line. He clearly has a bit to find with Altior on their Supreme form but Rich Ricci mentioned that they had ironed out some problems with Min and hoped they could close the gap if they met again.

    This is unlikely to be a two horse division however as Identity Thief has also gone down the chasing route and already has a Grade 2 success to his name. He won the Fighting Fifth last term before finishing sixth in the Champion Hurdle in March and if he can transfer that form to fences, he wouldn’t have much to find with the likes of Altior and Min.

    It has been a while since the north had a horse as exciting as Cloudy Dream and at this stage he looks to be capable of going to the very top over fences. He is two from two over the larger obstacles and his latest victory against more experienced rivals suggested that he was ready for a step up in grade. The ground would have been soft enough for him on that occasion but he handled it well and he looks likely to head to the Wayward Lad at Kempton over Christmas for his next start.

    One final horse to mention is Charbel who beat a couple of useful performers in the shape of Top Notch and Le Prezien on his chasing debut in October and they have gone on to boost the form since. Kim Bailey’s five-year-old looked a natural over the bigger obstacles and I am therefore surprised he is as big as 33/1 for this race and the JLT, especially when you consider that for the Arkle, Top Notch is as short as 14/1 and Le Prezien 16/1.



    JLT



    The four-year-old Clan Des Obeaux laid down a pretty good marker when running away with a Grade 2 contest at Newbury last Friday. Having made the odd mistake on his chasing debut at Chepstow, he seemed to benefit for that experience as he jumped much better last week. He never really came off the bridle as he sauntered clear on the run-in. There must be more to come from him with that being only his sixth start under rules and whilst he could make up into an RSA horse, I suspect that this will be his race come March.

    He could be joined in that race by Politologue who made an impressive winning debut over fences, beating the useful Vintage Clouds by ten lengths under Harry Cobden. The five-year-old saw the 2m5f trip out very strongly which suggests stamina is his forte and he looks likely to be a better chaser than hurdler. With March in mind it is worth noting that his only below-par display last year came in the Coral Cup on quicker ground and he does seem to be better with cut in the ground.



    RSA



    With Barters Hill out for the season, we have already lost one potential star from this division but there are plenty waiting in the wings including Alpha Des Obeaux, who may have failed to perform on his chasing debut at the beginning of October but he has wasted no time in recording two victories over fences. The latest of those came in Grade 3 company over 2m4f where he ran on strongly late on and I think he will only improve again once stepped up to 3m.

    As we have discussed already, Nicky Henderson has a wealth of talent at his disposal in most areas and this is no different. Different Gravey hasn’t had too much racing to date but he looked a natural over the larger obstacles when winning at Ascot a couple of weeks ago. He did make a slight error at the second last which can be forgiven but once David Bass shook him up he really started to motor and he pinged the last. A winning pointer over 3m, he has only tried 3m once under rules at Aintree but I wouldn’t be concerned about him trying it again come the spring.

    At this very early stage, one who stands out at a big price for the RSA is Martello Tower who won the Albert Bartlett at the Festival in 2015. His connections decided to stick down the hurdling route last term without success but there was plenty to like about his chasing debut at Navan for all he was beaten a couple of weeks ago. That run came over 2m1f which would have been much too short for him but he ran on strongly in the closing stages. He looks likely to step up in trip this weekend which should reveal more but he looks a lively outsider at this early stage of the season.



    Bets


    JEZKI (World Hurdle) – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 (bet365, Betfred)



    As I discussed earlier re the World Hurdle there are a number of horses towards the head of the betting who are at this stage unlikely to line up in this race. That means that there are some horses who are bigger prices than they should be and at this stage I think Jezki is a big price at 14/1.

    He missed all of last season having been found to have heat in his foreleg but the indications are that all is well with the eight-year-old and he is set to return to action at Leopardstown over Christmas.

    It is worth bearing in mind that he was 6/1 joint favourite for the World Hurdle before being ruled out last year, having improved a good deal for stepping in trip when winning the Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f and the World Series Hurdle over 3m at Punchestown. He has always been a high-class performer having won eight Grade 1s including a Champion Hurdle and if he returns with the same ability he left with, he could take all the beating in this race.

    Clearly that isn’t a given but he likes Cheltenham, stays three miles and in my opinion he should be about 8/1 rather than 14/1 so I think he is a good horse to start my ante-post diary with for this year
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    arsenalfh reacted to jazzman02 in Portugal Primeira/Segunda 2016/17   
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    arsenalfh reacted to jazzman02 in Portugal Primeira/Segunda 2016/17   
    My shots ratings/ data for the season so far (does not include Porto v Maritimo from last night)

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    arsenalfh got a reaction from BillyHills in Latest Tables - December   
    Thanks again Graham for all the hard work over the year. Congrats also to John for winning this month's competition.
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    arsenalfh got a reaction from Johnrobertson in Latest Tables - December   
    Thanks again Graham for all the hard work over the year. Congrats also to John for winning this month's competition.
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