Friday, 16 March 2018

Thursday 16th March - Cheltenham Day 4

Day 4 of the Cheltenham festival.

Gold Cup day – and the final day of the most intense week of the year !

Hand on heart, I’ve not enjoyed it quite as much as some of the festivals in the past…

The uncertainty over the state of the ground hasn’t helped: nor has the domination of Mullins and Elliott (and worse still, the endless droning on about said domination, by the media !).

I’ve also felt a little uncomfortable about how accurate the markets have been.
I expect to have to follow the money (or anticipate where it’s going to go !) at the smaller meetings – but it’s definitely the case at Cheltenham as well, nowadays.

I guess all those expensive horses have to be paid for somehow !

All this said, victory for Apples Shakira in the opener will probably change my view on the meeting completely !

It’s rare that I want a horse to win quite as much as I want her to (the last one that springs to mind, is Lil Rockerfeller at last years festival !).

Whether she’s up to the job, remains to be seen.

Here are my thoughts on her chances: the chances of the 9 other tips issued on the day – and even the one race where I’ve not issued a tip !


1:30 For die hard TVB fans, this is the most eagerly anticipated race of the festival.
In fact, it’s probably the most eagerly anticipated race of the entire season !
And the reason for that, is because most of us are sitting on an ante-post voucher for Apples Shikara, at odds of at least 16/1…
The tip was issued, back in November, before Apples Shakira had even set foot on a UK racecourse.
As I said at the time, I’m not in the habit of tipping horses who’ve not yet run in the UK  - but I just sensed she was something special.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I read lots of interviews with trainers and jockeys – and she kept on getting glowing mentions from the likes of Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty.
Considering the number of horses they deal with, that seemed significant.
She also has a pedigree to die for – as a full sister to the brilliant Apples Jade.
If she had not run at all previously, then I might not have been prepared to side with her – but a win on her sole run in France seemed to suggest she had inherited most of the family ability.
The rest as they say, is history.
3 runs, all over today course and distance; all in soft ground – and 3 wins…
There are question marks over the value of her form, as she’s only beaten a total of 13 rivals – but there is no question over how good she looked on each occasion.
It’s also reassuring to see that she heads both the Topspeed and Racing Post ratings – I suspect she is very good indeed.
Of course we will find out for definite this afternoon.
She may only face 8 rivals – but what they lack in number, they make up for in quality.
Fortunately, we also have one of them on side, in the shape of Farclas.
He’s another who I tipped earlier in the season, just before he ran in the grade 1 novice event at the Dublin racing festival.
He ran really well in that race – just getting out pointed by Mr Adjudicator.
It’s interesting to see that Farclas is now shorter in the betting than Mr Adjudicator – though that could be down to the Gordon Elliott factor, as much as anything else !
In addition to Mr Adjudicator, Willie Mullins also saddles Stormy Island, Saldier and Sayo – and all 3 have a chance.
The first named looks to be his strongest representative - but as we’ve seen a few times this week, you never know for sure with Willie !
The other big danger in the race is Redicean.
He was an impressive winner at Kempton last time – but I’m hopeful that he’ll struggle on todays soft ground !
Apples Shakira won’t – even though Nicky Henderson thinks she’ll be better on better ground.
That may well be true – but she is proven on soft and she’s proven to be very useful.
I really do hope she comes home in front – but mainly because it will be a nice story to tell !
I don’t think she’s a certainty – but I do think she’s a worthy favourite.
I also think that if she is beaten, Farclas has as good a chance as anything, of inflicting the defeat.
It’s a nice position to be in – but until she’s crossed the line in front, I’m not going to get too carried away !

2:10 As you would expect, this is a very competitive handicap – and it’s fascinating to see that 6 of the top 7 in the betting are trained by either Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott.
It’s almost as if punters think they found the geese that lay the golden eggs !
Ofcourse, the way the pair of them have ripped through the festival, it’s hardly surprising – but generally speaking, it pays to take a contrary view when you are betting (go against the crowd !).
That said, it’s not why I‘ve chosen to side with Flying Tiger – or indeed Smaoineamh Ailann.
The former was an eye catcher, very early in the season – and whilst his time as such has now come to an end (3 loses and you are out !), he’s continued to run in very eye catching fashion.
That was particularly true on his most recent outing, when he finished a 5 length 4th to Elgin in the Grade 2 Kingwell hurdle at Wincanton.
The winner ran fifth in the Champion hurdle on Tuesday – a few places ahead of the Kingwell runner up, Ch’Tbello.
Whilst Call me Lord, who was third in that race, subsequently finished a very close second in Saturdays Imperial Cup.
In short, it’s very strong form.
It’s therefore somewhat surprising that the handicapper chose not to adjust Flying Tigers mark – and he gets to run off 140 – just 6lb higher than the mark he won last seasons Fred Winter from.
The potential issue with him is the ground – as he would prefer a quick surface.
He may get way with it – but he may not. The betting will likely tell us, pre-race !
The other one I want on side, is Smaoineamh Ailann.
She is trained by Robert Walford and looks to have been layed out for the race.
When she won at the course in December, he described her as the quickest horse he has at home.
It’s maybe therefore not too surprising that he has chosen to target her at a valuable race, such as this.
She has plenty to prove – and again the ground may not be ideal – but at a big price, I think she is worth a small risk.
Outside of these 2, then the Mullins/Elliott battalions do look the most likely.
That said, choosing which one of them, is a task in itself !
Duca de Thaix is probably the one I’d be most fearful of.
At bigger prices, then A Hares Breath will almost certainly run his race – and may be capable of  getting placed: Whilst Le Richebourg, looks quite interesting for Joseph O’Brien…

2:50 This looks like a high class renewal of this race, which is a shame, as I could have really fancied Dortmund Park !
In truth, I’m pleased that I managed to tip him before Gordon Elliott started banging in the winners yesterday afternoon – as I reckon his successes shaved a few points off the price of most of his runners today !
Dortmund Park really caught my eye on his penultimate run at Thurles, when he absolutely hacked up.
You won’t see racing in worse conditions – it was quite literally a bog – but he seemed to absolutely relish it.
Whilst everything else in the race was struggling to put one leg in front of another, he cruised round – and then sprinted clear (relatively speaking  !).
On the back of that run, he was made second favourite for a Grade 1 event at the Dublin racing festival – but that race took place only 12 days after the Thurles race and I suspect it came too soon.
Not that he ran badly – he just didn’t run as well as I felt him capable…
Ofcourse, part of that might have been down to the conditions, which were nowhere near as bad: whilst it is also interesting to see that he’s had a wind op in the interim.
In truth, he’s a selection based on gut feel – and on the assumption that the ground will be desperate.
This race can turn into a war – and from what I saw at Thurles, if that happens, it will suit Dortmund Park admirably !
If conditions aren’t quite that bad, then I’ve less idea over what will win !
Nicky Henderson saddles 3 very promising horses in Santini, Chef des Obeaux and OK Corral – and all 3 have sufficient ability to go close.
Santini is probably the best of the 3 – but he is also the least experienced and that could catch him out.
Chris’s Dream is the one I will fear most if conditions are really bad.
He hacked up on desperate ground at Clonmel last time – and it’s impossible to know just how good he might be.
Poetic Rhythm and Callet Mad are both useful animals – but I don’t think they will beat Dortmund Park or Chris’s Dream, if it is heavy: or the Henderson trio, if it isn’t.
And whilst Tower Bridge did the service a massive favour when winning at 40/1 last time, I’ll be a little surprised if he can repeat the dose today (though I won’t begrudge him it, if he does !).
It’s crazy to see the likes of Paisley Park and Mulcahys Hill at 33/1+ - but this really is a very strong race, and the reality is, talented as they are, they probably won’t be good enough to feature.

3:30 Even in the absence of reigning champion, Sizing John, a really strong field will go to post for the Gold Cup.
The stand out horse, is Might Bite: however a combination of his suspect temperament and potentially unsuitable ground, make him look vulnerable.
At this level, even the best need most things in their favour – and one or two of his boxes are unticked !
If he does win, it will be testament to his enormous ability (of which there is little doubt) – but I think he warrants being taken on…
There are quite a few who you could legitimately oppose him with – but I’ve gone for a couple of ‘value’ options (as is generally my want !).
The first of them, is Road to Respect.
I’ve honestly lost count of the number of times that I’ve nearly tipped him this season !
I nearly tipped him ante-post for the Christmas chase at Leopardstown – and then nearly tipped him again on the day (when he won !): I also nearly tipped him ante-post for the Gold cup, prior to that win…
Generally, the reason I didn’t was because I was struggling to separate him and his stable/owner companion, Disko.
They are similar horses and I couldn’t be sure which of them would run in which race (and I hate getting the wrong races for ante-post selections !).
As it turned out, Disko picked up an injury and is now out for the season – so things are much simpler…
In terms of the case for Road to Respect, then he is a Grade 1 winner and a previous festival winner, who is already the second highest rated horse in the race – but still has plenty of scope for improvement.
He should also have no issue with trip or ground.
As profiles go, his is pretty good !
The other one I want on side, is American.
His profile isn’t quite so good – but he’s a seriously talented horse.
Unfortunately he’s also very fragile – and will only be risked on soft ground.
He got that last time out, when he finished second to Definitly Red in the Cotswold chase.
Superficially, there is no reason to think he will reverse that form: however, I’m sure American will have derived greater benefit from the run – and briefly, just before the home turn, I thought he was going to win the race (and I’ve learnt to trust those in running feelings !).
I also find it very interesting that connections have seen fit to supplement him for the race.
It’s not a cheap thing to do – and it suggests to me that they have him spot on and are expecting a big run.
He’s got one of the best men in the business on his back – and simply, I don’t think he should be 25/1 for any race that he runs in !
It’s obviously possible to make a case for plenty of the others – but equally, none of them have perfect profiles.
If the jumping of Our Duke holds up, he will be hard to beat: and it’s a similar story with Killultagh Vic.
Native River should run his race, and could easily hit the frame again – but is vulnerable from a win perspective.
Definitly Red is similar – and shouldn’t really be good enough to win, unless conditions get desperate (which I guess they might).
You have to get a bit more creative beyond that point – though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bachasson run well at a big price. He’s looked an improved performer this season.
All this said, I’m happy to side with Road to Respect and American.
The former is the sensible choice, who ticks all the boxes: but the latter has sufficient ability to cause a shock.

4:10 I quite like the look of Virak, in this…
At his peak, he was a borderline Gold Cup horse (rated 159) – and whilst he is now rated 20lb below that level, he’s only 9, so really shouldn’t be in decline.
That said, something clearly hasn’t been right with him, as he’s competing in this race and not the previous one on the card !
I don’t know what his issues have been – but a fair chunk of the ability has looked to be there, on his 2 runs this season – and crucially, he’s always been horse who has relished heavy ground.
In fact, I’ve little doubt that if Paul Nichols had been talking up his chances, rather than those of his stablemate, Wonderful Charm, he would be a much shorter price.
The case for Wonderful Charm is maybe a little more obvious, as he was a close second in this race 12 months ago.
However, he’s a year older than Virak – and doesn’t really want the ground as soft as he’s likely to get today.
I suspect that bigger dangers to Virak will come from the Irish duo Foxrock and Burning Ambition.
The Former was a grade 1 performer, at his peak; whilst the latter is the new kid on the block, who has been very successful in the Pointing field.
Of the others, then last years winner, Pacha du Polder should again run well; as too should Balnaslow (I can still feel the pain from him not getting placed 12 months ago !).
Whilst Grand Vision should make a very good pre-race back to lay in running, as he travels and jumps (and also looks like Desert Orchid !) – but is likely to be found wanting for stamina from the home turn.

4:50 This looks an absolute minefield – and tempting as it was, to get involved with something in the race, I managed to resist !
A little bit like the Fred Winter hurdle on Wednesday it’s difficult to know where to begin.
24 runners – most of whom are unexposed and with plenty of scope for improvement, I’d struggle to form a short list of less than 10.
Gordon Elliott looks to have a particularly strong hand in the race, with at least 3 of his 4 runners appearing likely sorts.
Similarly, Willie Mullins saddles 3 very interesting runners: as does Nicky Henderson.
Outside those 3 stables, then Early Doors for Joseph O’Brien and Melrose Boy for Harry Fry are 2 others that catch the eye.
If forced to narrow it down to 3, I would go with Eliotts Sire du Berlais, Henderson’s Dies de Bieffes and Early Doors.
The first 2 named are ridden by Donal McInerney and James Bowen respectively – and it’s only a matter of time before they both ride festival winners.
I certainly wouldn’t bet a lot of money about one of them starting with this race…

5:30 The final race of the festival, and I am quite struck by how many of the fancied runners would prefer decent ground.
I can see this race being run in desperate condtions, and that just won’t suit the likes of Vaniteux, Theinval, Valdez – or last years winner, Rock The World.
North Hill Harvey will have no issue with it though.
Conditions were pretty bad, when he won the Greatwood over hurdles, last season – and also when he won over fences at the course, back in November.
That was only a 3 horse race – but he won it very well: whilst his form with the top class novice, Sceau Royale, stands up to the closest scrutiny.
He’s also unbeaten at Cheltenham – with 4 wins from 4 runs – which is impressive by anyones standards.
I’ve little doubt that he’s been targeted at this race by the Skeltons – and the application of first time cheek pieces looks a calculated move.
Touch wood, he jumps very well for a novice – and he looks a worthy favourite…
That said, I suspect he will need to be on his ‘A’ game if he is to get the better of Top Gamble.
He’s arguably been a little disappointing this season – but his handicap mark has dropped as a consequence.
Considering he finished a close up 4th in the Champion chase just 12 months ago, on unsuitably quick ground, he looks very handicapped on a mark of 149.
Again, cheek pieces are applied for the first time – and I can understand that.
He also gets Davy Russell back in the saddle – and that looks just as significant.
Davy has only ridden the horse 4 times previously – but that included his 3 best runs.
Davy’s not in bad form himself, either !
There are a few dangers in the race: the likes of Le Prezien (if his jumping holds up) and Doitforthevillage (if he’s good enough) – but I do think that North Hill Harvey and Top Gamble, give us a particularly strong hand in this race.

Here’s hoping for a great day ahead !



Chel 1:30 Apples Shakira 0.5pt win 16/1 (AP)
Chel 1:30 Farclas 0.5pt win 20/1 (AP)
Chel 2:10 Flying Tiger 0.5pt win 16/1 (AP)
Chel 2:10 Smaoineamh Ailann 0.5pt win 20/1
Chel 2:50 Dortmund Park 0.5pt win 25/1
Chel 3:30 American 0.5pt win 25/1 (AP)
Chel 3:30 Road to Respect 0.5pt win 12/1
Chel 4:10 Virak 1pt win 12/1 (AP)
Chel 5:30 North Hill Harvey 1pt win 8/1 (AP)
Chel 5:30 Top Gamble 0.5pt EW 16/1

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Thursday 15th March - Cheltenham Day 3

Day 3 of the Cheltenham festival.

There has been significant overnight rain – and on ground which was already ‘soft’, we are again likely to be looking at ‘heavy’, by the start of the first race.

On the plus side, the action switches to the New course this afternoon – so the horses will be running on previously unused ground.
I wouldn’t be optimistic about conditions for tomorrow though !

So far, things haven’t gone well from a tipping perspective – though in my defence, there haven’t been that many races on the first 2 days, which I felt were set up for tipping in.

Things are a little better today – and they look even better again tomorrow.
Remember, it’s a meeting of 2 halves 😉

In terms of todays tips, then I’ve ended up with 7 across 5 races.
I’ve changed tactics slightly, with a couple EW – and even one at a single figure price !

Rest assured, it’s not an attempt on my behalf, to force anything (as is illustrated by my stance in the final race on the card) - it’s more a case of showing a bit of flexibility to respond to the opportunities on offer.

Anyway, enough of the pre-amble !

Here’s the rational for the tips – plus my other thoughts on the day…


1:30 This is a pretty open looking race, in which a case can be made for most of the runners.
The market is headed by Invitation Only – and whilst he definitely has a chance, he looks too short in the betting at 3/1.
Similarly, Terrefort has a chance, but there isn’t much appeal in his price, which is just a point bigger.
Benetar could be of interest at around 8/1 – though I wonder if he’s quite got the class to win a race of this stature: and whilst Finians Oscar looked all class last year, he’s been a massive disappointment this season and now has a lot to prove.
On better ground, Modus would definitely have been of interest – but he may not appreciate the very soft conditions.
That’s certainly not the case with Shattered Love – as she relishes heavy ground.
She’s won 4 of her 5 chasing starts this season, culminating in a last time out win in a Grade 1 chase at Leopardstown, over Christmas.
She took advantage of the falls of Monalee and Rathvinden that day, but still did well to hold off Jury Duty. 
She is an improving mare, who likes to race prominently and is generally a sound jumper.
She also gets a 7lb sex allowance from all of her rivals (bar the 5 year old Terrefort) – and in a tight race, that could prove crucial.
I would certainly expect her to run a big race – the question is whether she will be good enough to win.
That’s hard to say with confidence – but I do think that she represents a bit of value at around 9/1.
It’s also possible to argue that Snow Falcon and Kemboy represent a bit of value – as both have a chance.
However, if this does turn into a war (which is quite possible), then I want be with Shattered Love, as her stamina and sound jumping could prove decisive.

2:10 This is not a race which I have a strong view on.
My feeling is that it will probably be won by one of the Irish horses that look to have been layed out for it – but I don’t know which one…
Glenloe, Sort it Out, Delta Work and A Great View all have the right kind of profile – but they have also been well found in the betting.
Of the English challengers, then Louis’ Vac Pouch and Forza Milan are the 2 who appear to have been specifically targeted at the race – but again, the market is wise to them.
Beyond that, it looks a bit of a lottery…
Connetable and Dadsintrouble are a couple who are moderately interesting, at big prices: whilst, as I mentioned on the forum, Wait for Me should make a decent pre-race back to lay in-running (as he travels strongly).
In truth, the best thing about the race, is probably a quote I read from Evan Williams, concerning his runner, Prime Venture. He said:
The horse went up 12lb for winning a bad race at Ffos Las and, as a relatively exposed handicapper, there was no way he'd improved by that much. There's nowhere else to go though, so he's at Cheltenham for a day out.’
Well, at least that’s one that can be crossed off the list !!
All in all, probably a race best watched…

2:50 There is a numerically disappointing turn out for this – but I think there’s a good bet in it…
Only 6 will go to post – and 3 of them are likely to have a real issue with the ground.
Cloudy Dream, Sub Lieutenant and Balco des Flos would all prefer much better ground than they are going to get.
At Championship level, then generally speaking a horse needs most things in its favour, if it is going to win.
Consequently, that leaves 3 to focus on: Un de Sceaux, Cue Card and Frodon.
Clearly Un de Sceaux is the one to beat.
He will have no issue with the ground and he won the corresponding race 12 months ago. However, it was noticeable that he only just made it up the hill that day – and the ground was a fair bit quicker than it will be today.
He probably only just has sufficient stamina to last the trip – and with Ruby unable to ride him – Paul Townend will need to get things spot on.
Cue Card is another past winner of this race – and he certainly won’t lack for stamina, no matter how heavy the going !
However, he’s now 12 – and had a very hard race at Ascot just over 3 weeks ago.
He may have recovered – but I’m not sure I would want to bet on it.
Consequently, Frodon is the one to be interested in…
He’s got a few pounds to find with the 2 principals on official ratings - but is only 6 and is still improving.
He will also relish the soft ground – and whilst he finished well behind Cue Card at Ascot last time, I suspect he’s a much better horse at Cheltenham.
Certainly, he was unbelievably good, when winning at the course in January.
He destroyed Shantou Flyer and Coo Star Sivola that day – and those 2 fought out the finish to the Ultima on Tuesday.
I’ve little doubt that Frodon was flattered by that run, because he barely put a foot wrong - however, it did show what he is capable of, if everything drops right.
And I think there’s a distinct possibility that everything will drop right for him today – and if it does, then he has to go very close.
Against 2 such talented opponents, I think it makes sense to back him EW – but with reasons why they both could under-perform, a victory for Frodon is certainly not out of the question.

3:30 TVB favourite, Lil Rockerfeller, runs in this and will be attempting to avenge his agonising defeat of 12 months ago (right up there in the top 5 most painful defeats incurred by TVB tips – and it’s quite a list, I can tell you !).
At the start of the season, I felt he had a real chance of going one better – and I tipped him ante-post.
However, he’s looked a little battle weary in a few of his races this season – and the very soft ground is likely to be the final nail.
I suspect his chance for success, passed 12 months ago…
In truth, this is a much hotter renewal than last years.
I’m not sure quite what has happened – but a host of serious challengers have sprung up during the season – and this has turned into a really competitive race.
Sam Spinner heads the market – and on his favoured heavy ground, he looks sure to run well.
However, whether he’ll be able to grind some very talented horses into submission, is debatable.
He’s also not likely to be helped by the presence of Donnas Diamond.
He likes to race prominently and should ensure that Sam Spinner doesn’t get a freebie on the front end.
I have a feeling that the two of them will just set things up for a closer – the question is which one…
There are plenty of talented horses in the race, but I suspect the most talented, is Yanworth.
He was actually sent off 2/1 favourite for last years Champion hurdle – but he didn’t have the pace to get involved, over the minimum trip.
He was stepped up to 3 miles for his next run at Aintree – and a battling victory over Supersundae, showed that he did have the stamina.
He is also able to cope with very heavy ground, as his massively impressive win on Trials day, 2 years ago showed…
I expect Barry Geraghty to give him a quiet waiting ride – and then look to pounce coming to the last.
The race isn’t going to be pretty – but Yanworth has guts as well as class – and hopefully they will see him home in front.
As for the others, then Supersundaes chances may have been undone by the rain; whilst you have to feel that Unowhatimenaharry, like Lil Rockerfeller, had his best chance 12 months ago.
Bacardys has possibilities – if he gets home: as does The New One.
L’Ami Serge could certainly get placed – though it’s harder to see him winning; and I would say the same about Colins Sister, who can be backed at huge odds.
In fact I did consider tipping her, as her running style could see her picking off rivals close home – as she will absolutely relish conditions.
I’m just not sure that she’s quite classy enough, in such a strong contest.
If you can get 50/1 tho – and 4 places, then she is definitely worth a speculative few quid.

4:10 I was disappointed to see that Vieux Morvan wasn’t declared for this race.
I felt he would have had a really good chance – but clearly, his connections weren’t so convinced…
I guess I could have switched to Last Goodbye in his absence – as he comfortably beat Vieux Morvan when the pair met at Leopardstown last month.
However, Last Goodbye was hit hard by the handicapper for that win – and his jumping can be a little suspect.
In short, I don’t fancy his chances as much as I did those of Vieux Morvan.
I do fancy the chances of Kings Odyssey though – particularly at the prices available early yesterday !
In truth, the case for him is quite straightforward, so I don’t understand why he was ever trading at 33/1.
He was hugely impressive winner over todays course and distance, 2 years ago – and off the same mark he runs from today.
That was also in very heavy ground – and he ploughed through it in a manner which suggested he was a horse going places.
That hasn’t really happened yet – but he’s hinted on more than one occasion that the ability remains.
In fact, he ran really well on his most recent outing, when third over today courses and distance – to Frodon !
He split Shantou Flyer and Coo Star Sivola in that race – and as I said earlier, that form was franked in no uncertain terms on Tuesday.
I can’t help but feel that Kings Odyssey has a race like this in him – and if that’s the case, then under perfect conditions, today is likely to be the day.
Ofcourse with 24 runners, you need a bit of luck – and there is always the possibility that you might bump into a horse who is thrown in.
The most likely candidates for that are Kings Socks, The Storyteller and Movewiththetimes.
Certainly it would be no surprise if one of them proved to be well ahead of its mark.
I therefore think it is worth backing Kings Odyssey EW – and there is (was !) sufficient juice in the price, to do just that.
Aside from those mentioned, there is nothing else in the race that really grabs me.
I find it interesting that connections have chosen to drop Go Conquer in trip – though I’m not completely sure that it’s a good move.
Whilst I wouldn’t be surprised to see Willie Boy run well: or indeed, Mercian Prince – but in terms of tips, there’s only one horse that I’m interested in – and that’s Kings Odyssey !

4:50 This is the least attractive betting race of the day, by some margin…
At the start of the week, Willie Mullins said that Laurina was his best chance of a winner.
So far, he’s registered 5 success: it’s highly likely that she will make it 6 (or maybe 7 or 8 – depending on how the earlier races have gone !).
She’s been deeply impressive on her 2 runs in Ireland – both on heavy ground. Her form also has substance to it, so she’s going to take a lot of beating…
Marias Benefit is the clear second best in the race.
She’s been a revelation this season, winning 5 on the bounce.
Her penultimate run in the soft at Taunton, suggests she will handle todays conditions – though her head strong style – and Cheltenham hill, mean that she is likely to be vulnerable, after the last.
I’ve little doubt that she’ll run her race – but she’s just likely to provide a target for Luarina to aim at…
Cap Soleil is third in the betting – and most likely to finish third in the race.
Her form isn’t outstanding – but she’s put in a few performances which suggest she’s got real talent – and she is highly rated by her connections.
The only other one worthy of a mention, is Angels Antics.
Her jumping can be poor – and she may find everything happening too quickly (particularly if Marias Benefit applies a lot of pressure).
However, she will relish the ground – and if she’s still in contention coming down the hill, nothing will come up it better !
She’s certainly one to consider in-running – provided she’s still within hailing distance at half way !!

5:30 A little bit like the 2 handicaps on the opening day, I have a something of a dilemma in this race…
I think that Mall Dini and Squouateur are the most likely winners – but it’s 11/2 the pair, and in a 22 runner handicap, that’s too short…
More than that, neither one really has the form to warrant being the price they are - it’s all about what they could be.
It was a similar situation with both horses 12 months ago – and neither delivered then.
Hopefully it will be the same story this afternoon !
With them out of the race (!), it’s a much easier to solve..!
Cleary an ability to cope with desperate conditions is going to be a pre-requisite - and Band of Blood will have no issue in that respect.
The ground couldn’t have been worse when he won on his penultimate run at Exeter – and the fact that he was able to follow up 10 days later at Doncaster on much quicker ground, showed that he was over the issued which has caused him to have 2 years off the track.
Ofcourse he has risen in the handicap for those 2 wins – but he’s still only rated 133, and I’m sure he’s a better horse than that.
He’s got a very good jockey in James King – and I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t go close.
The other one I want on side, is Wild West Wind.
He was a good winner on heavy ground at Chepstow on his seasonal debut, before falling next time in the Welsh National.
On his most recent run, he cantered in to the lead, having jumped the third last at Haydock - but then stopped to nothing.
In a way, that was a little disconcerting – but that race was over an extra half mile – and however bad conditions are today, they won’t be as bad as they were at Haydock !
He certainly got home fine, on his seasonal debut - and hopefully that will be the case again today.
Tom Georges horses have been running really well all week – and I expect Wild West Wind to do the same.
Of the others, then The Young Master is handicapped to win – but a big revival would be required and the ground has gone against him.
Whilst Final Nudge is the other one I considered tipping. However I was a little disappointed with his effort last time and it’s unusual for horses to bounce back from poor runs, mid season.

Here’s hoping for a great day ahead !



Chel 1:30 Shattered Love 1pt win 9/1
Chel 2:50 Frodon 0.5pt EW 10/1
Chel 3:30 Lil Rockerfeller 0.5pt win 25/1 (AP)
Chel 3:30 Yanworth 1pt win 6/1
Chel 4:10 Kings Odyssey 0.5pt EW 33/1
Chel 5:30 Band of Blood 0.5pt win 16/1 (AP)
Chel 5:30 Wild West Wind 0.5pt win 20/1

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Wednesday 14th March - Cheltenham Day 2

Day 2 of the Cheltenham festival.

After yesterday, we’ve now got a better idea of how the ground is riding.
It’s soft, for sure – though not as bad as was feared.

It looked to me like proper winter ground (the type you normally get in December)…

The second day of the festival is invariably a relatively quiet one, from a betting perspective.

The final 3 races on the card, don’t really lend themselves to big betting, as there is minimal form to work with.

This year, the opening Ballymore hurdle and the feature Champion chase, are also races with poor betting shapes – which leaves just the RSA chase and the Coral Cup.

I’ve got a tip in both of those, plus a couple of speculative ones: in the cross country chase and the bumper, for good measure – but that’s it.

I did toy with one or two others - but I would be guessing and I think that’s best saved for the Mentions !

Therefore, here are my thoughts on the days races – including the rationale behind the tips…


1:30 Today is the day of reckoning for Samcro.
The most hyped horse of the season, he went some way to justifying his reputation when winning the Grade 1 Deloitte hurdle last time.
If he manages to come home in front again this afternoon, then I suspect few doubters will remain.
That’s because, despite his reputation, he faces some really strong opponents.
I was massively impressed by Next Destination, when he won on his hurdling debut as Naas back in November – and whilst he’s not been quite as impressive in his 2 subsequent races, he still won them both (and they were grade 2 and grade 1 contests).
Willie Mullins took yesterday by storm – and I’m sure that Next Destination will be primed to the minute.
With Ruby in the saddle, he appears to be the number 1 hope for Mullins – though he has 3 other runners, in the shape of Duc de Genevieres, Scarpeta and Brahama Bull who have all got decent form – and plenty of potential.
Willie seems pretty intend on making sure that Samcro is the real deal, that’s for sure !
Away from the Mullins battalion, then Black Op heads up the English defence.
He ran a huge race in defeat last time, not quite getting home in very heavy ground. Ridden with a little more retrain – and on a slightly better surface, I’d expect him to run to the line today.
Visions des Flos is the other English challenger of real interest, as he looked much improved when hacking up at Exeter last time.
There are also a couple of rank outsiders, in the shape of Coolanly and Gowiththeflow, who I could see running well.
There is certainly some serious opposition for Samcro to overcome !
All this said, I expect him to be up to the task.
Gordon Elliott is not in the habit of talking his horses up – and Samcros last time out destruction of Paloma Blue looks all the better after that ones fine performance yesterday.
I’m also reasonably confident that Next Destination will prove to be his biggest rival – as I can see one or two of Willies runners being sacrificed to ensure there is a really strong pace.
It will be a fascinating watch, but I hope – and expect - that we will see the dawning of a new superstar…

2:10 On a day when there are limited betting opportunities this is definitely the race with greatest appeal, from a betting perspective.
It’s undoubtedly competitive – but there’s enough to build a case for a few of the runners.
The one I’ve chosen to side with, is Dounikos.
I tipped him on his most recent run, when he was fourth in the Flogas chase at the Dublin racing festival.
That race was won by Monaleee, with A Boom Photo in second – but I think Dounikos can reverse the form this afternoon.
For a start, he was arguably unlucky not to win that day (another 25/1 near miss !).
He was squeezed up on the run in, when delivering his challenge – and that cost him both ground and momentum.
Furthermore, todays race is over at additional half mile – and whilst that may suit Monalee and Al Boom Photo, I think it will suit Dounikos more.
Not that he’s only got Monalee and Al Boom Photo to worry about…
Presenting Percy is a worthy favourite for the race – and looks the one to beat.
He’s a talented, versatile horse – and Dounikos will definitely have his work cut out, if he’s to get the better of him.
I’m less convinced by the claims of the English challengers.
Black Corton has had an amazing season – but he’s been on the go for ages and won’t relish the soft ground. The form of his defeat of Ms Parfois, got boosted yesterday: but I’m still happy enough opposing him.
I’m also happy enough opposing both Elegant Escape and Ballyoptic.
Both are useful horses – but Elegant Escape lacks a bit of class – and Ballyoptic’s jumping is liable to let him down.
In short, whilst I respect his rivals – particularly Presenting Percy – I think Dounikos is capable of winning.
He’s an improving horse, who has all the right attributes to take this particular contest.
Let’s hope that he’s the second leg of an early Gigginstown/Elliott/Kennedy double !

2:50 This is the other main betting race on the day – but it’s a lot harder to work out than the RSA chase…
That’s mainly because there are 26 runners – and quite a few of them can be given a chance !
Regular readers will not be surprised to read that I always planned to be with Le Breiul in this.
He’s a horse that I’ve had on my radar, since he beat Benetar at Newbury 12 months ago, and nothing he’s done since then, has put me off.
Admittedly, he’s only run 3 times in the intervening period – but he was a big eye catcher on the second of them (his seasonal debut, back in November): and whilst he was beaten in a 4 horse race on his most recent run, he was facing a near impossible task, trying to give Black Ivory 19lb in desperate ground.
I suspect it’s significant that he’s not been seen since then.
Ben Pauling is a very good target trainer - and he knows that he’s got a well handicapped horse.
The strength of Le Breuil in the betting confirms that – as his bare form doesn’t really justify his price.
Hopefully his inexperience won’t betray him in such a big field, because I think he will go very close if it doesn’t…
I spent a fair bit of time trying to find a second tip in the race – but couldn’t come up with anything that I felt completely comfortable with…
It’s possible that Max Dynamite could take the race apart – if he is able to translate his flat form to the hurdles. However, this is a very different challenge to running in the Melbourne cup – and I can’t really warm to him.
Similarly, whilst William Henry was impressive when winning a very strong race last time, his subsequent rise in the handicap will make it hard for him to follow up.
I considered Mount Mews, on his return from fences - but he wasn’t able to win over hurdles earlier in the season; whilst Topofthegame faces a similar challenge to that faced by William Henry.
He’s probably the market leader which I like best – but I prefer Le Breuil…
There are a few at bigger prices which I was drawn to – chief amongst them, Barra and As you Were.
I like the connections of both – and they have plenty of potential for improvement. However, there is also just a bit too much guesswork involved for me to feel comfortable tipping either one.
In truth, it’s a race where it would be difficult to dismiss many of the runners with confidence – so that makes me inclined to keep involvement to a minimum.
I do want to take a risk on Le Breiul though – there’s no doubt about that !

3:30 Altior versus Douvan should really be one of the races of the decade – but that assumes both horses arrive in top form – which is far from guaranteed to be the case…
Altior has had an interrupted season – during which he has run just once, at Newbury last month. He was also found to be lame on Monday (just 2 days ago !).
I’m no expert on such matters, but apparently it was relatively trivial lameness.
All the same, it’s not what you want when you are backing an even money shot !
Douvan hasn’t been seen on a racecourse since disappointing in this race 12 months ago.
He was subsequently found to have a hair line fracture – and whilst that will have long since healed, it doesn’t explain why he’s not been out since.
It’s impossible to know what to expect from him – and difficult to know what to expect from Altior.
As a consequence, this just can’t be a betting race…
I guess, if you were desperate, you could maybe argue a case for Min by default - even though he is the inferior of the other two, when they are at their peaks.
You could also maybe argue an each way case for Politologue – but there would be far too much guesswork and supposition for me to want to do that.
One thing that does strike me about the race, is that there should be plenty of pace.
Special Tiara will want to lead – but Ar Mad might not let him !
I think that will suit Politologue (who likes to race prominently – but wouldn’t choose to front run).
The ground is also likely to be a factor, with soft not suiting either Special Tiara or Gods Own.
However, non of the above really helps progresses things !
This is likely to simply come down to which one of Altior and Douvan is in the best shape.
If they both are, then it should be some race – though I fear that probably won’t be the case…

4:10 All eyes will be on Cause of Causes in this, as he bids to win at a fourth consecutive Cheltenham festival.
And there is a strong possibility that he’ll do just that – he’s certainly a worthy favourite.
However, whether there is any margin in a quote of 3/1, in such a race – and up against a number of serious rivals, is a different matter…
Certainly a strong case can be made for The Last Samurai, based on his form over conventional fences – and the National fences: whilst Tiger Roll has to be respected as a dual festival winner, who has clearly been targeted at this race.
Jossies Orders and Auvegant are two others who have got a chance – though as they are also owned by JP McManus, the suspicion is that they are not expected to beat Cause of Causes.
However, rather than side with any of the above, I’m going to take a chance on Hurricane Darwin.
He’s only run over a Banks course once – at Punchestown last month, behind Auvergnat – but it was a very eye catching effort.
Despite being strong in the market (he went off at just 4/1), he was settled a very distant last, by Denis O’Regan.
And he pretty much stayed there until making ground, hand over fist, up the run in…
In fairness, he was still beaten 15 lengths at the line – but I’m sure that the tactics employed, gave away at least that amount of ground.
It will be fascinating to see how he’s ridden today.
My feeling at the time, was that his last run was merely a prep for today – getting him familiar with a new discipline.
I therefore expect him to show much improved form.
However, even if that is the case, there is still a question over whether he will have sufficient ability to trouble the likes of Cause of Causes and The last Samurai.
He’s rated over 20lb inferior to them over conventional fences – and that’s quite a gap to close.
That said, he’s only 8 – and is still improving – so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.
Certainly at 33/1, I think he’s worth a small play to find out…

4:50 I spent quite a lot of timing looking at this race – and delving into the form of a number of the runners – but I came to the conclusion it is unfathomable !
Simply, you can’t get a proper handle on the form that is in the book – and virtually all of the runners have massive scope for improvement.
The one I was most tempted by, was Espirit de Samoza.
He was an official eye catcher on his debut at Sandown, before winning (untipped !) at Huntingdon next time.
On the back of that run, he was considered for the Triumph hurdle, but a subsequent defeat at Taunton put pay to that idea…
I do wonder if the Taunton defeat was all part of a grand plan, to get him a handicap mark which would enable him to run in this race – but maybe I’m over thinking things !
And that definitely is a danger in this race.
So many of the runners have single pieces of form which would give them a strong chance - if it could be taken literally.
Act of Valour has run We Have a dream close; Look my Way got within hailing distance of Apples Shakira (and got her off the bridle); Nube Negra got even closer to her (though she did win in a hack canter).
After the race, it will doubtless be very easy to point to the key piece of form – but pre-race, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees…
Consequently, whilst I’ve had a small bet on Esprit de Samoza, I think it makes sense to make it a watching race, officially speaking.

5:30 The bumper is another race which is often viewed as a lottery, but I’m not sure that’s the case.
True, there are 24 runners – and very little form to work with – but I suspect that the field can be narrowed down to 6 or 7…
Unfortunately (though unsurprisingly !), those 6 or 7 are mainly at the head of the market – but I still think it’s a race getting involved with.
As is invariably the case, the start point for the race, is the Willie Mullins runners.
He fields 5 this year – with this main hope looking to be Blackbow.
He won the bumper at the Dublin racing festival, at the beginning of February.
That is probably the best bumper run in Ireland this year (certainly in terms of figure recorded) – and I think it’s the race to focus on.
Balckbow beat Rhinestone by just over a length in that race – but I expect the form to be reversed this afternoon.
It’s not something I ever expected by be typing, but Patrick Mullis out rode Derek O’Connor in that race.
He got first run of Blackbow; kicking off the home turn and opening up a 3 length gap, which O’Connor and Rhinestone were unable to bridge.
My feeling at the time, was that Rhinestone was the better horse – and I’m optimistic that he’ll prove that this afternoon.
Barry Geraghty takes over in the saddle today – and it’s very interesting that he’s siding with Rhinestone ahead of Didtheyleaveuoutto.
That one was massively impressive when winning a very strong bumper at Ascot last time – but Geraghty seems to have few doubts in his mind that Rhinestone is the better animal (though in fairness, the soft ground is not expected to suit Didtheyleaveuoutto).
As a consequence, the strongest home challenge is likely to come from Acey Milan.
He’s an impossible horse to knock – having dealt with every challenge put in front of him, so far.
In my mind, it comes down to whether the English or Irish bumper form is strongest – and I reckon that this year, an Irish horse will come home in front – and I think that horse will be Rhinestone !

Here’s hoping for a great day ahead !



Chel 2:10 Dounikos 1pt win 10/1
Chel 2:50 Le Breuil 0.5pt win 16/1 (AP)
Chel 4:10 Hurricane Darwin 0.5pt win 25/1 (AP)
Chel 5:30 Rhinestone 1pt win 8/1


Chel 1:30 Samcro (P )
Chel 3:30 Altior (C )
Chel 4:50 Esprit de Samoza (O )

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Tuesday 13th March - Cheltenham Day 1

It’s finally arrived: Day 1 of the Cheltenham festival.

And, unbelievably, the meeting is going to open on heavy ground.
Apparently the last time that happened was in 1982 – which stretches even my memory !

Unfortunately, heavy ground is not what I anticipated when I issued my early ante-post tips – and whilst a pair of them will be running today, their chances have been severely compromised by the weather.

On the flip side, I realised a couple of weeks ago, that the ground could end up soft – and the ante-post tips issued from that point onwards are in a much better position…

Ofcourse, what they look like as tips will have no bearing on how they run – but I think we’d all prefer to be on a horse which the market now likes the chances of  - particularly if we’ve managed to secure a significantly bigger price !

In terms of the tips that I’ve issued – both for today and for the rest of the week – then I’ve adopted a similar strategy to the one I used last season (and which worked well).

I’ve simply picked off horses which I feel have a chance – at odds which I think under-estimate their chance.

I’ve deliberately kept stakes small – and stuck to win only – because that enables me to tip multiple horses in a race (which I find is a better tactic).

Obviously, with hindsight, I wish I’d staked a bit more on a few of the ones that I issued early – but that’s bound to happen if I am picking the ‘right’ horses…

Anyway, I’ve ended up with 10 tips on the day spread across 6 races.

Here’s the rationale for the tips – plus my general thoughts on all 7 races on day 1…


1:30 Getabird has been installed a short priced favourite for the meeting opener – and whilst he is the most likely winner, I think he’s too short at 15/8.
He’s clearly got a lot of talent - and the ground will suit him, over the minimum trip.
However I think he was flattered by his last time out win (where Patrick Mullins stole the race from the front) – and he is unproven left handed.
I’ve also got some reservations about second favourite, Kalashnikov.
I got very close to tipping him for this race, a couple of months back – but his stated preference at the time was the Ballymore (and there was no NRNB !).
He’s since gone on and won the Betfair hurdle – and whilst that is very good form, Both My Tent or Yours and Ballyandy won that race – but were subsequently beaten in this…
I would expect him to be placed – but a little surprised if he is able to win.
The trouble is, trying to figure out what will win…
It’s possible to make a case for the next half dozen or so in the betting, without being overly confident about any of them.
The ground should suit both Summerville Boy and First Flow – though both may not be quite good enough.
Mengli Khan is interesting as Gordon Elliotts sole representative – but he was beaten last time by Getabird – and would prefer better ground.
Claimantakinforgan could have a chance – though I would have expected him to be much stronger in the betting, if Nicky Henderson really thought he was up to winning…
Almost by process of elimination, I arrive at Paloma Blue.
He was an eye catcher last time out, in the Grade 1 Delloite novice hurdle at the Dublin Festival.
He was well beaten by Samcro that day – but I suspect he will show himself tomorrow, to be an exceptional novice.
Watching a video of that race again, it is impossible not to be impressed by Paloma Blue.
Firstly, he pulls like crazy for the first couple of furlongs; then he seriously clouts a few hurdles – and yet, he’s still able to stride on with Samcro, rounding the home turn.
Admittedly Samcro left him for dead, after jumping the last, but Paloma Blue showed huge ability, just to get into that position.
I would be very hopefully that todays bigger field will enable Davy to settle him better in the early stages: whilst I’m sure Henry De Bromhead will have worked on the jumping.
The ground may be an issue for him – only time will tell on that score – but in terms of natural ability, then I suspect that only Getabird may be able to match him…
In terms of outsiders with a chance: then I could see Simply the Betts running a fair race – and also Debuchet: whilst Dame Rose could be interesting from a back to lay in running perspective, if allowed to bowl along in front.

2:10 In some respects, I’ve done really well with the Arkle.
I tipped Brain Power on Day 1 of the season – at 20/1.
Roll on 4 months and he’s one of only 5 runners in the race – and one of only 4 with a realistic chance.
More than that, whilst he is the fourth favourite, there is a distinct possibility that the race will be run to suit him.
Footpad and Saint Calvados are both confirmed front-runners – so it will be interesting to see how that one unfolds.
Similarly, Petit Mouchoir is a keen going sort – so the race is unlikely to lack for pace !
And that will suit Brain Power perfectly,
My abiding memory of him from last season, is when he appeared out of the gloom at Ascot, cruising behind Fergall, having sat in behind a suicidal pace set by Sternrubin.
Apparently Brain Power has so much ability, he’s the only horse in Nicky Henderson yard, who can live with Altior !
And that probably explains why he’s still a 10/1 shot for this race, when his chasing form suggests he should be at least double that price.
Certainly, Henderson has not lost faith in him – and for that reason, and because I can see the race being run to suit him perfectly, neither have I.
In fact, without the rain, I’d be feeling moderately optimistic – but I do fear that the rain has scuppered his chance.
He wants decent ground – and he’s not going to get it.
Worse than that, his 3 main opponents are all happy/very happy with soft/heavy.
It’s a shame, because I don’t think we’re going to get to find out how good he is.
Instead, I suspect we’ll get it confirmed that Footpad is very good.
Cases can be made for both Petite Mouchoir and Saint Calvados – but Footpad has looked like an exceptional novice.
His jumping has been exemplary in all 3 of his chasing starts to date – and he will have no issue with the ground.
I guess Saint Calvados might try and take him on – but I doubt he’ll be quick enough.
So far Brain Power is concerned, then I fear we’ll have to wait for another day to find out how good he is…

2:50 The first handicap of the week – and I suspect it will be one of the easier ones to crack (it’s all relative !).
For a start, it’s helped by the fact there are only 18 runners – 6 short of the maximum.
And of those 18, I’d be relatively happy to dismiss half…
Unfortunately, that doesn’t include any of the markets principals, and cases can be easily made for Coo Star Sivola, Singlefarmpayment and Vintage Clouds.
That said, I can see no ’value ‘ in their current prices…
In truth, I can only see minimal value in a quote of 12/1 about Rameses de Teille – but as I tipped him when he was 25/1, that’s not an issue !
He’s a progressive novice, who relishes soft ground – and whilst he was beaten last time, he was taking on a horse who is well fancied for tomorrows Grade 1 RSA chance.
I have a slight concern over his stamina – but if it holds out, he potentially has the class to win.
Cogry doesn’t have the same class – but he has real street toughness – and that could prove invaluable this afternoon.
He comfortably beat Singlefarmpayment over todays course and distance, back in October – and there shouldn’t be much between the pair, at the revised weights.
Cogry will have no issue with conditions – and last time out, ran an eye catching trial for today, staying on late over a trip short of his optimum.
His Achilles heal is his jumping – but if that holds up, I would expect him to run a very big race.
The third one I want on side in the race, is Minella Daddy.
It’s hard to describe him as ‘an old friend’, as I’ve tipped him twice in his last 4 runs – and on both occasions, he’s finished second, having traded heavily odds on in-running ! (and that’s not what friends should do !).
However, he has sufficient ability to win a race of this nature off his current mark – even though he also has quirks !
To offset those, he has Sean Bowen on board – and there are few better jockeys riding at the moment.
All 3 of the above have a definite chance of winning – and they have been under-estimated in the betting.
The only other one I considered tipping, is Shantou Flyer.
I can certainly see him running well – but I’ll be a bit surprised if he is sufficiently well handicapped to win.

3:30 The Champion hurdle is the other race on the day, which has gone sadly wrong from an ante-post perspective !
I tipped John Constable, after I felt he had performed very creditably in the International hurdle at the December Cheltenham meeting.
He finished sixth that day to My Tent or Yours – but he travelled really sweetly, on ground that would have been much too soft for him.
My thinking was that on spring ground, in a field of 7 or 8, he could track the pace and use his flat speed to spring a surprise (or at least give Buveur D’air a fright).
Alas, that’s not how it’s panned  out !
The ground today is likely to be just as soft as it was in December - and John Constable will struggle to act on it.
More than that, Willie Mullins has decided to mass his battalions in a seemingly pointless exercise against Buveur D’Aur – making it unlikely that we’ll even be able to nick some place money !
Such is life, I guess…
In terms of what will happen in the race, then Buveur Dair should win – but beyond that, it’s anyones guess !
If Faugheen is back close to his best, then he would give Buveur Dair a real fight – but I doubt that’s the case (the application of cheek pieces strike me as an act of desperation).
Wicklow Brave is definitely capable of placing (though probably not of winning) – if he consents to set off (which isn’t guaranteed !).
Yorkhill once possessed sufficient talent to at least place – but seems to have gone slightly mad !
And whilst the mental state of Melon is a little better – he’s likely to struggle with the ground…
I would expect the same to be true of My Tent or Yours – which means Elgin, Ch’Tbello or Mick Jazz, have all got a chance of finishing in the frame.
That said, it’s impossible to write off the Mullins quartet with absolute confidence, which makes it a near impossible race to play in.
At least it should be an entertaining watch – at quite a few levels !!

4:10 It’s hard to look beyond Apples Jade in this.
She won the corresponding race 12 months ago – and that looked a stronger renewal.
She also looks an improved mare this season - and will have no issue with conditions.
The icing on the cake, is an attitude to die for – in short, I think she will take a bit of beating !
That said, she won’t necessarily win by far.
Certainly she doesn’t have that much in hand of a few of her rivals – even if they aren’t all guaranteed to run their race…
Benie Des Dieux is the second favourite – but she is nearly impossible to assess, having only run over fences, since moving from France.
She’s held in high regard by Willie Mullins – but I’ll be surprised if she’s capable of beating Apples Jade.
Le Bague Au Roi looks a bigger danger – as she seems to be improving.
I’m not convinced that she’s reached Apples Jades level yet though.
In fact, I think Jers Girl is the best bet for the runners up spot.
She was beaten by Le Bague au Roi at Kempton on her most recent outing – and is worse off at the weights today.
However, today’s test of 2m4f in heavy ground will suit her much better than the Kempton test and I think she can reverse the form.
In fact, I had ear marked her for a maximum each way bet – in the ‘without the favourite’ market.
She opened up at 7/1, which was most acceptable; However, that was a very weak market and by the time it had any substance she could only be backed at 9/2.
That means a slight loss, unless she finishes second (or wins).
I guess those of you attracted to the ‘each way bet to nothing’ might still want to get involved – but for official purposes, it will just be a watching race.

4:50 My 2 early tips in this race, have fared rather better in the market than my early tips in the Arkle and Champion hurdle !
I tipped Ms Parfois a couple of weeks ago, when she was a 25/1 shot (33/1 in places) – and you’ll now struggle to beat 7/1: whilst I tipped Shades of Midnight early yesterday, when he was a 331/ shot (40/1 in places) – and 20/1 is now the best price in the village.
That’s more how ante-post betting is supposed to go !
Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that either one will win – but at least we can bask in the glory of some well placed bets, for a few hours at least !
In terms of the cases for them, then Ms Parfois really is rock solid…
On official ratings, she is the fourth best horse in the race - but her 7lb sex allowance means she is the best in at the weights.
She loves soft ground: has good course form – and threatens to relish the step up to todays 4 mile trip.
It really is tick, tick, tick, with her !
She definitely sets the standard for the race, it’s just a question of whether something will improve past her (which is possible, as she is relatively exposed).
One who could, is Shades of Midnight.
He was an eye catcher last time on his first run for Sandy Thompson.
That was in the Towton chase at Wetherby, and he shot into the lead early in the straight, before weakening after the second last.
Taking the run at face value, a step up in trip seems an odd move (as he appeared to run out of stamina).
However, my feeling was that he didn’t get the best of rides – and we also don’t know how fit he was.
I’m happy to trust Sandy Thompsons judgement that he will stay this far – and if he does, I think he’s got the quality to get involved at the finish.
His current rating leaves him a bit to find with the principals – but he was rated 10lb higher not long ago – and is still a relatively young horse.
He also loves heavy ground – so at the price, is definitely worth a risk.
Of the others, then I suspect that Mossbank is the one of Gordon Elliotts pair, to be most interested in (the ground will suit him better than it will suit Jury Duty): whilst Sizing Tennessee and No Comment are both potential dangers – if they stay the trip.
It’s certainly not a race that you could call with confidence - but I feel that we are on two with a chance, at very good prices, and you can’t ask much more than that..!

5:30 I really did think that I’d found one in this, in the shape of Tycoon Prince – but I’m not quite so sure now..!
I love his profile: he was a graded performer over hurdles last season  - but always looked like an embryonic chaser.
He’s been kept to the minimum trip in his 3 runs over fences – but is stepped up to a more suitable distance for his handicap debut this afternoon.
You really won’t get a more suitable profile for this race.
I also love his connections: Gigginstown, Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy – particularly as Elliott also runs the race favourite, De Plotting Shed (which means that Tycoon Prince is likely to go under the radar, a little).
Even his actually form looks good.
Last time out he fell, when disputing third place with Any Second Now, behind Footpad.
Watching the race, he always looked to have the measure of Any Second Now – yet that one is disputing favouritism for todays race (and the weights are the same).
There are just a couple of things that are putting me off.
Firstly, Gordon  Elliott seems luke warm on his chances.
I’ve learnt over the years to take what trainers say with a pinch of salt – but Elliott tends to play things relatively straight.
Secondly, the horse has not been backed as I would have expected.
Ofcourse, it’s still early days, but I could honestly have seen him disputing favouritism for this race.
Maybe that will come – and if it does, I would suggest topping up.
However, whilst I was tempted to top up on him officially, at the generally available 16/1, I’ve decided to hang fire.
I’ve no issue about having tipped him – I’m just not quite as keen on him as I was earlier !
Instead of increasing the stake on him, I’ve brought Le Rocher on side…
He’s a horse who I’ve always liked – and he’s a horse who will relish todays under foot conditions (I can only imagine what it will be like, come the final race !).
I would have given him half a chance in the grade 1 JLT, so it’s hard not to fancy him in a handicap.
His jumping is a concern, but if he can hold that together, I would expect him to run a very big race.
In terms of the others in the race, then this is a particularly open contest.
I am most fearful of Mister Whitaker – but 8/1 is too short in a race such as this (I would want double figures about any of the runners).
The ground is likely to be key – and if one of the runners who handles it, gets into a jumping rhythm, then they are likely to prove hard to beat.
Lets hope that’s Tycoon Prince or Le Rocher !

Here’s hoping for a great day ahead !



Chel 1:30 Paloma Blue 0.5pt win 14/1
Chel 2:10 Brain Power 0.5pt win 20/1 (AP)
Chel 2:50 Ramses de Teille 0.5pt win 25/1 (AP)
Chel 2:50 Cogry 0.5pt win 20/1
Chel 2:50 Minella Daddy 0.5pt win 18/1
Chel 3:30 John Constable 0.5pt EW 50/1 (AP)
Chel 4:50 Ms Parfois 0.5pt win 25/1 (AP)
Chel 4:50 Shades of Midnight 0.5pt win 33/1
Chel 5:30 Tycoon Prince 0.5pt win 20/1 (AP)
Chel 5:30 Le Rocher 0.5pt win 18/1


Chel 4:10 Jers Girl w/o Apples Jade (C )

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Friday March 9th

Lunchtime Update

Crossed my Mind is a NR in the handicap hurdle at Leopardstown (2:25).

I always get a little suspicious when a JP owned favourite is taken out – and he has other runners in the race !

Neither Destin DAjonc or Gran Geste has been backed yet (both are available at 10/1) – but I’ll be interested to see if there is money for them, closer to the off..

Uncle Danny can still be backed at 9/1 in the handicap chase at 3:30, which surprises me a little…

General Principal has drifted out to 6/1 – but I slightly prefer the chances of Uncle Danny, regardless of the price.

Maybe both will struggle to cope with Blast of Koeman and Drumconnor Lad – but Uncle Danny may be worth a small risk, just in case…

Westend Story can now be backed at even money at Sandown, which was the target price.

However, I’m a little suspicious of the drift – considering his absence…

If he gets backed, close to the off, I think he will win – but he’s too short to take much of a risk.

Lip Service has been very well backed in the 4:45 race, which is possibly significant.

He was 4/1 last night – but you can’t beat 5/2 now.

Over at Leicester, Icing on the Cake has been supported into favouritism for the 2:40 race.
With doubts over his ability to handle the ground, I am happy to just watch at a price of 5/2.

Finally, the absence of early favourite Finnegans Garden, has helped see Lickpenny Larry promoted to the head of the market for the 3:50 race.

He was 6/1 last night – and even with a hefty R4, he should be a fair bit bigger than his current price of 5/2.
The suggestion is that he is well fancied…

If he jumps round and gets up the hill, I think he’ll win…

I was hoping to get a bigger price on Lickpenny Larry – but such is life.
I still think he is a worthy Lunchtime Nap !

Lunchtime Nap: Lickpenny Larry (Fair Price 5/2)

Win, Lose or draw, there will be no review later.
From this point on, I’ll be switching my attention to tomorrows cards – and then on to Cheltenham !

It will therefore be a fair few days before I next post on the blog.

Best of luck to you all, for the festival – I’m sure it will be a great few days, it always is !!


Evening Preview 

There are 3 NH meetings tomorrow: at Sandown, Leicester and Ayr in the UK – plus Leopardstown in Ireland.

The best racing on the day, is probably at Leopardstown, where the meeting originally scheduled for Sunday/Monday will take place.

Former Champion hurdler, Jezki, competes in the opening race on the card – but there are better betting opportunities in some of the later races…

Crossed my Mind is the one of most interest in the handicap hurdle at 2:25.

His 2 most recent runs have been in the UK – and he’s been sent off favourite on each occasions (and both times, in decent Saturday races).

Tomorrows race is almost certainly a drop in class – and with Barry Geraghty in the saddle, he is the one to beat.
That said, it’s a trappy enough looking race – and there is little margin in an early price of 3/1…

The other race of interest on the card, from a betting perspective, is the handicap chase at 3:30.

This doesn’t look as competitive – and Uncle Danny looks over priced at 9/1.

I actually tipped him on his penultimate run at Limerick, but he disappointed.
However, he bounced back to form on his most recent outing, when third in a hot handicap at the Dublin Racing festival.

He races off the same mark tomorrow – and should really have the beating of General Principal, who finished a length behind him and is no better off at the weights.

It’s therefore a little odd that General Principal is a best price of 4/1…

I would expect the prices to right themselves tomorrow – and if they don’t, I’ll be very suspicious !!

Drumconnor Lad, Blast of Koeman and Jetstream Jack are the 3 others of interest – but with a straight bat, Uncle Danny is definitely the bet in the race…

The racing isn’t as competitive at Sandown – but there are a couple of horses who I think should win (and therefore could be Lunchtime Nap material !)

Westend Story will probably end up too short in the 3:05 - but he’d be of interest at around even money…

He was an impressive winner of a fair race at Wetherby, back in January – and should be able to defy a 10lb rise, so long as there is no sinister reason for his absence since then ! (55 days).

In the final race on the card (4:45), Lip Service is the one who catches the eye on his second run for Fergal O’Brien.
He ran well on his stable debut in a strong race at Cheltenham in November – and has a big chance on that form.

His absence since then is slightly concerning – and it’s interesting to see that he’s had a wind op.
It’s not an easy race to assess with confidence – but even if he only matches his effort last time, he sets a decent standard.

If he can improve on that run, then he will be difficult to beat…

There are also a couple of very interesting races at Leicester.

The first of them is off at 2:40 – and the dilemma is whether to side with Granville Island/Newberry New, both of whom won last time and are stepping up in class: or Icing on the Cake, who was well beaten last time, but is dropped significantly in grade.

My inclination is to side with the latter – though at 4/1 on ground he may struggle with, his case isn’t as compelling as I would like…

The final race of interest is the 3:50 – and it contains probably the most interesting runner of the day !

Lickpenny Larry was a big eye catcher on his most recent outing at Towcester – so much so, I claimed that ‘he will win next time’ ! Though I did qualify it by adding ‘granted slightly less of a stamina test’.

And that could be the issue...

Whilst the hill at Leicester isn’t quite as severe as the hill at Towcester, it’s not far off – and the ground at Leicester tomorrow is likely to be as heavy as it was at Towcester.

Assuming he jumps as well as he did last time, I can see him swinging into the straight, looking sure to hose up.
The question will then be whether he can get home…

I don’t honestly know the answer on that one – but in-running lays will ease my pain if he doesn’t !

All in all then, quite an interesting days racing !

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Thursday March 8th


Show on the Road ran a fair race at Wincanton – trading as low as 1.54 in running – but he lacked the stamina to get home in the grueling conditions.

It’s worth reserving judgement on him, until conditions improve…

Domningo also seemed to struggle in the conditions – something that was anticipated by the layers on BF !

He was a tight 5/1 show when I first posted, yesterday evening.
Out to 7/1 in places at lunchtime (9/1 on BF).
He was returned with an SP of 16/1 (23/1 on BF !).

There’s not a lot you can do in situations like that.
Someone clearly expected him not to run a race – and they were right !

It’s always a danger in the smaller races – particularly with certain stables (and Jonjos would be one of those).

Good job we're just using this period to tick over, prior to Cheltenham !

Lunchtime Update

Show on the Road has drifted slightly in the 2:40 at Wincanton and can now be backed at 7/2.

The value is still minimal – but if I were going to bet in the race, he’s the one I would side with…

Domingo has drifted a little more, in the 3:10 race – as I thought he might.

He’s out to 6/1 with a few bookmakers – though I’ve just backed him at 9/1 on BF !

I think he’s worth a risk at the latter price – though he’s far from a certainty !

Again, there is no Lunchtime Nap today, as the races/horses just aren’t there…

Evening Preview 

There are 3 NH meetings tomorrow: at Wincanton and Carlisle in the UK – plus Thurles in Ireland.

It’s a similar situation to today: The meetings at Carlisle and Thurles have little to recommend them (other than the fact they are likely to take place !): and whilst Wincanton isn’t hugely better, there are at least a couple of races of interest…

The first of them is the handicap hurdle at 2:40.
Unfortunately, there are only 6 runners – and the 4 to focus on, are at the top of the betting.

Consequently, it’s not easy to find an angle – certainly at early prices…

Show on the Road is the one that appeals most – even though there should be little between him and Sea Wall.

The last named got the better of him when the pair met over todays course in January – and it should be tight between them again tomorrow.
I slightly favour Show on the Road because he is the younger horse – but there is minimal value in an early quote of 3/1 (as both Moabit and Whatcombe Heights can both be given a reasonable chance).

The best race on the day, is the following handicap chase, off at 3:10.

Domingo is the one that jumps out at me in this, on his second run for Jonjo.

He showed promise on his stable debut at Ffos Las, last month, and if he can build on that, then he should go close.

Unfortunately, he has been picked up in the early betting – and there is little value (considering the risk) in his current price of 5/1.

However, he is the sort I could see drifting a bit tomorrow, and at around 8/1, he would be worth a risk.

In truth, chances can be given to virtually all of the runners, so it’s not a race to get heavily involved with.