Posts Tagged ‘ horse racing ’

31 Jul
2013

Another Perfect Plate Day Approaches…

People’s spending habits might still be under pressure, and the economy enduring what could best be described as a squeeze, but try telling that to anyone present here in the seven day long bubble which is Galway…

As we roll into the first of the two big days of the week, with this afternoon’s tote.com Galway Plate the €200,000 highlight live on RTE1 at 5.30pm, we can reflect on two superb opening chapters at Ballybrit, with punters off to a flyer on Monday and the crowd up, before a riotous Tuesday which saw the crowd rise by more than 4,000 on 12 months ago.

The figure of 18,248 was markedly up on the 14,058 who clicked their way through the turnstiles on the equivalent day in 2012, though Galway being what it is there were probably another few hundred who got distracted by the mayhem on Shop St and have delayed their trip to the sports until today.

The increase in spectators also lead to a healthy rise in turnover in the betting ring: the bookies enjoyed a sharp spike in business compared to a year before, with €1.25m changing hands as opposed to €970,297.

Plenty of punters shouted home the winner of the feature Topaz Mile at 6.45pm, with young Colin Keane powering clear on the each way gamble Brendan Bracken for trainer Ger Lyons (fuelled by featuring in the Racing Post Pricewise column).

Keane then explained his delight at riding a winner at Galway, a change of fortune after crashing his car last week!

Though, as my betting ring colleague Brian Gleeson was quick to remark: “he’ll be able to afford the panel beater now!”

Hopefully those same winning punters have saved a few quid to play with this afternoon, as there are plenty of options split between two really tremendous cards at Galway and Goodwood.

The latest ‘duel on the Downs’ will be the clear highlight of a mouthwatering second day at Goodwood, and for all that Toronado and Dawn Approach look to be separated by the width of a cigarette paper, the Sussex Stakes (3.05pm) can confirm St James’s Palace Stakes form.

Don’t be in any way surprised if Declaration Of War plays a big part too, but aside from his Derby aberration Dawn Approach is unbeaten in nine starts, and is chiselled from pretty stern stuff.

Elsewhere at Goodwood, if you’re fancy playing on something altogether more speculative then you could do a lot worse than backing Brian Meehan’s Testudo at 14/1 in the Gordon Stakes (2.30pm).

I am absolutely convinced this grey son of Duke Of Marmalade remains capable of much better on just his fourth start, and given his entries in both the Voltigeur and St Leger you’d have to think his shrewd trainer agrees.

It’s a shame there aren’t a dead eight runners for each way purposes, but even so he doesn’t deserve to be dismissed as a 14/1 shot.

Here in Galway there’ll be a monster crowd for Plate day, but at the time of writing everyone is holding their breath to see if overnight favourite Carlingford Lough even gets into the big race (5.30pm, live on RTE1)!

He’s first reserve and needs something to be withdrawn to take his place in the line up, though owner JP McManus has four runners in the race proper, and you’d have to suspect they’ll shoehorn him in one way or another.

If they do Carlingford Lough will hold a huge shout off a mark of 133, but either way it’s a cracking renewal with plenty of feasible options for punters.

One I really like is Punchestown Festival winner Klepht for Tom Mullins and Robbie Power.

He signed off his novice campaign with a flourish, and has only run once on the Flat since then to protect his mark of 144.

He’ll be held up and try and creep through beaten horses, but don’t be surprised to see him finishing fast and late.

You could certainly do worse than have a look at the 14’s available each way with Coral.

Also at Galway, Dermot Weld should be having a winner on the card with Lucky Kitten in the 60-95 mile handicap at 6.40pm.

He’s got precious little to beat in a small field, yet is available at 5/2 with BetVictor.

I can also pass on a very good word for Usuel Smurfer in the three mile handicap hurdle at 4.10pm.

A winner at Downpatrick and not out of the frame in three starts over timber, he looks worth following in an open contest, especially as a number of bookmakers including Betfred and Coral will accommodate you at 10/1 each way.

Finally, a mighty thank you to all those who packed out McHugh’s in Galway last night for our Injured Jockeys Fund race night, featuring myself, Paddy Power, Shark Hanlon, Marietta Doran and Niall McCullagh.

We haven’t had time to count a vast amount of change and notes currently filling four buckets, but every cent will be going to a very, very important cause, so well played and thumbs up if you made the effort.

Good luck!

Wednesday’s best bets:

2.30 Goodwood – Neptune Investment Management Gordon Stakes – 7 Testudo (win) @ 14/1 (bet365, BetVictor, Ladbrokes or William Hill)

3.05 Goodwood – Qipco Sussex Stakes – 5 Dawn Approach (win) @ 11/10 (bet365 or Paddy Power)

4.10 Galway – 40,000 Euros Tote Jackpot Guarantee Handicap Hurdle – 5 Usuel Smurfer (each way) @ 10/1 (Betfred or Coral)

5.30 Galway – thetote.com Galway Plate (Handicap) – 6 Klepht (each way) @ 14/1 (Coral)

6.40 Galway – Bet Online At thetote.com Handicap – 3 Lucky Kitten (win) @ 5/2 (BetVictor)

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Posted 4 years, 1 month ago

05 Oct
2012

Insane Not To Back Saonois To Come Out On Top In Sunday’s Arc

What a weekend! Racing fans are set to lap up plenty of what they enjoy best, with Ascot, Newmarket, Redcar, Gowran Park and Longchamp providing delicacies at nearly every turn on Saturday afternoon, before the Sunday serving dishes up an extraordinary seven straight Group 1’s at Longchamp, the highlight of which is of course the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at 4.25pm.

As usual a massive Anglo-Irish team of enthusiasts will be heading across the channel en-masse with the express wish to eat, drink, bet and be merry, with their numbers swelled by myself, Lord Culcheth and Trifleman, who’s been released from captivity for a short period, but is trading at a shade of odds on on the exchanges to be deported any time prior to the big race.

It really is a glittering card on Arc day, and one that everyone who loves racing ought to experience at least once.

This year’s big race has a distinctly open feel to it, and though the defections of the likes of Danedream, Nathaniel and Snow Fairy have been hogging the headlines, there’s plenty of quality on display to suggest punters have lots to be excited about.

Neatly drawn in stall five the public have really latched onto Aidan O’Brien’s Camelot, as he bids to atone for his St Leger disappointment three weeks ago.

The unusual booking of Frankie Dettori on a Ballydoyle charge has only served to whet the collective appetite to back a horse who was a stunning Guineas and Derby winner, and at the time of writing he is generally a 5/2 chance to give Aidan O’Brien victory in the race he won with Dylan Thomas in 2007.

Godolphin stalwart Dettori famously apologised to his employers after switching camps to ride Scorpion to success in the 2005 St Leger, but it’s a different landscape nowadays, and ‘the Sardine’ has more leeway with which to operate.

Will he win though?

It’d be nigh on suicidal to write him off, especially with the brilliant recent record of three year olds in the Arc, but it must also be acknowledged he had a hard race in defeat 22 days previously, and at the end of a highly pressurised season I’d rather look for some value a little further down the bookmaker’ lists.

It’d be a wonderful story if Orfevre could give Japan a first Arc win – make no mistake this is a very good horse and one with a seemingly perfect temperament for the big occasion, as demonstrated by his Arima Kinen win back in December, plus he warmed up for this by taking a course and distance trial in the Prix Foy, beating the re-opposing Meandre by a length.

He has great acceleration, but his trainer Yasutoshee Ikee will not have been happy to see stall 18 of 18 allocated to his stable star.

Of those at bigger prices last year’s runner up Shareta commands plenty of respect in the hands of regular pilot Christophe Lemaire; she has ground to make up on Meandre from their running the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in June, but improved for that run to win both the Yorkshire Oaks and the Prix Vermeille.

Clearly she doesn’t find it easy against the colts, but she ran a blinder in this in 2011 and is a recent course and distance winner.

Sir Michael Stoute won this with Workforce two years ago, but his runner here Sea Moon was well stuffed on his latest start in the King George, and without a significant dollop of luck probably isn’t quite good enough to actually win this.

As I’ve already mentioned Meandre (6th in the Arc in 2011) has ground to make up on Orfevre, but his master trainer Andre Fabre also has another string to his bow in the shape of three year old Masterstroke.

This will only be Masterstroke’s fourth try at Group level, and indeed his first ever Group 1, but hailing from the stable of a man who has won the big one on no less than seven occasions (most recently with Rail Link in 2006) it’d be plain daft to dismiss him, though will he be good enough to beat some cracking opposition?

The one I really like is another of the three year olds, and as I mentioned earlier the Classic generation have an enviable record in the race, winning a weighty 18 of the last 25 runnings.

What’s more, nine of the 15 from that age group that have won the race in the last 18 years won a European Derby…so my selection is Saonois, from the unfashionable stable of Jean-Pierre Gauvin, and pleasingly the bargain basement buy won the French Derby at Chantilly back in early June, when sent off an unconsidered 25/1 shot.

He progressed from there to win the key trial over course and distance at Longchamp when decisively scoring from Bayrir (who re-opposes) in the Prix Niel, a race which has produced nine of the last 16 winners.

Really deep ground might be a concern, but he certainly handles some cut, and it’s pleasing to see connections stick with regular pilot Antoine Hamelin rather than parachute in a big name celebrity.

It has cost connections €100,000 to add their horse to the field at the supplementary stage, and that cannot have been easy to part with that sort of cash, especially when they’re recently turned down a bid of €3,000,000 for their horse!

For the racing romantics it’d also be a great story for Saonois to beat horses wearing the colours of the great and the good of European racing’s elite.

He is part owned by a 34 four year old racing fanatic and village baker called Pascal Treyve, who hails from an impoverished region of central France.

His dream to own part of a racehorse has already wildly exceeded anything he might ever dream of, but might it be about to explode for him? I hope so.

Saonois is a course and distance winner who loves the track, is well drawn, hails from the right age group, and won the key trial. At 8/1 each way with bet365 (who are offering four places) he appeals in an open contest.

A little earlier in the day Richards Hannon and Hughes can strike a blow for the travelling contingent, with Choisir colt Olympic Glory fancied to come out on top in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at 2.05pm.

His only defeat in four starts came at the hands of 2,000 Guineas favourite Dawn Approach in the Coventry at Royal Ascot, since which he has boosted his profile no end, winning on Heavy at Newmarket’s July Meeting (G2), and on quicker ground at Glorious Goodwood (also G2).

He’s the one they have to fear, and bookmakers are right to be wary.

On Saturday afternoon it’s a slightly more relaxed affair at Longchamp, but John Gosden can continue a brilliant campaign in the Group 2 Prix Chaudenay at 11.55am, with Shantaram fancied to do the business on his first try up in trip at 1m 7f.

It’s another wide open contest, but Shantaram made a great impression in the Lingfield Derby Trial in May, coming clear with Main Sequence before going down by three parts of a length.

Since then he won his maiden on Soft ground at Newmarket, and then stepped up to 1m 5f to easily account for five rivals in a Group 3 at the July Meeting.

Soft ground and this step up in distance can make it another great day for Gosden, and in the process complete a hat-trick for Shantaram.

The 9/2 with William Hill is fair.

Good luck!

The weekend’s best bets at Longchamp:

11.55 (Saturday) – Qatar Prix Chaudenay – 2 Shantaram (win) @ 9/2 (William Hill)

2.05 (Sunday) – Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere – 1 Olympic Glory (win)

3.25 (Sunday) – Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – 16 Saonois (each way) @ 8/1 (bet365)

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Posted 4 years, 11 months ago

16 Feb
2012

The Winner Of Friday’s Betfair Hurdle? That’s Final!

Outside of the major festivals rarely can any track have hosted such a glittering array of talent as is declared to be on display at Newbury on Friday, but with the frosty weather well and truly in retreat we get another bash at trying to solve what’s promising to be a fantastic day’s sport.

Hats off to Channel 4 for their juggling act which means anyone not fortunate enough to go can get a glimpse of the crown jewels….

There’s a first prize of more than 86 grand for the winner of the unsurprisingly fiercely competitive Betfair Handicap Hurdle at 1.15pm, and I’ve got a strong suspicion the loot could be heading the way of one of the two Irish runners in the field, Willie Mullins’ charge Final Approach.

This hardy six year old son of Pivotal is tough as nails, having won four of his nine starts over hurdles, including no less than last season’s MCR at Leopardstown, plus the small matter of the County Hurdle at the Festival.

So proven in the cut and thrust of big field handicaps we also know he’s a good traveller, since his master trainer has never shied away from running him where an opportunity has arisen, notably twice at Auteuil last summer after his Cheltenham exploits.

His stable are on fire, the ground should be ideal, he has a nice racing weight of 11.0, plus he has the advantage Paul Townend (who won on him at Leopardstown) booked to do the steering.

His trainer opted to give him a nice confidence booster at the turn of the year against inferior horses at Cork, and he’s reported to be fully revved up for this.

If you were at Cheltenham for the Open Meeting back in November you’ll remember Dorset Square plundering a listed handicap under Danny Mullins, meaning his father’s last UK runner in handicap company was a winner, a trend which could continue here.

The dangers are everywhere you look, not least in the miserably priced 11/4 jolly Zarkandar, but available at 12/1 each way with any of Betfred, Coral or BetVictor I’ll be disappointed if Final Approach can’t have his say at the business end.

Also a word on the two short priced favourites on the card – I’ll be more than happy to watch Long Run complete his Gold Cup prep at 1/2, but for those who like to play the short ones the 8/13 with Hills about Sprinter Sacre re-enforcing his Arkle claims looks a better way to go (12.10).

His two chase starts to date have been a thing of beauty, and it’ll be disappointing if he doesn’t collect, albeit against some seriously talented opposition in Hold Fast, Zaynar and French Opera. Win bet.

Good luck!

Friday’s best bets at Newbury:

12.10 – Betfair Super Saturday Chase – 2 Sprinter Sacre (win) @ 8/13 (William Hill)

1.15 – Betfair Hurdle (Handicap) – 4 Final Approach (each way) @ 12/1 (Betfred, Coral or BetVictor)

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Posted 5 years, 7 months ago

28 Jan
2012

Blackstairmountain A Step Ahead In Sunday’s Leopardstown Arkle

There’s no doubting the headline act at Leopardstown on BHP Insurance Champion Hurdle day, as the covers come off reigning Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly at 2.30pm, live on RTE2.

Granted he hasn’t been seen since his majestic win at Punchestown in the Rabobank Champion back in May (268 days ago), but this is a horse with a proven record when fresh and although the history books will show he was beaten first time up back in November 2009, and red hot trainer Willie Mullins will surely have left plenty to work on pre-Cheltenham, defeat remains hard to envisage on Sunday afternoon.

It won’t be a cake walk with improving mare Unaccompanied in opposition getting weight and boasting the advantage of race fitness, especially given her display in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle here at Christmas time, but she receives nine pounds from the favourite when if this was a handicap she’d be getting 16!

Put another way, she was just a length and a half superior to Hurricane Fly’s re-opposing stablemate Thousand Stars at Christmas time in receipt of 10 pounds – the same Thousand Stars who has been soundly thrashed by his more illustrious Closutton neighbour each time they’ve met.

Unaccompanied might give him something to think about, but it’s a likely a seventh Grade 1 lies in wait for Hurricane Fly.

You won’t get rich backing him at the top price 4/7 available with any of Bet365, Paddy Power, Sportingbet or William Hill, so i’ll be sticking him in a double with another Mullins inmate Blackstairmountain, as the improving seven year old bids to give Ruby Walsh the first leg of a lucrative Grade 1 double at 1.25pm.

Mullins could barely have his string in better form, and following his course and distance win in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase at Christmas time Blackstairmountain is strongly fancied to maintain his 100% record and make it a hat-trick over the larger obstacles.

That high profile Leopardstown win came chiefly at the expense of David Pipe’s Notus De La Tour, and he once again makes the journey from Somerset to team up with Robbie Power, though it’s hard to make a case for the form being reversed.

Perhaps Peter Casey’s eyecatching Flemenstar will be a bigger danger, but on Yielding ground he might not be such a potent force unless the heavens were to open, and Blackstairmountain rates a confident selection.

The price isn’t flash, but the 7/4 with Victor Chandler should pay dividends.

The double pays around 100/30.

Good luck!

Sunday’s best bets at Leopardstown – win double the following:

1.25 – Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase – 2 Blackstairmountain (win) @ 7/4 (Victor Chandler)

2.30 – BHP Insurance Champion Hurdle – 1 Hurricane Fly (win) @ 4/7 (Bet365Paddy PowerSportingbet or William Hill)

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Posted 5 years, 8 months ago

13 Jan
2012

Swincombe Flame To Set The Lanzarote Alight Amongst Saturday’s Top Tips

Greetings from Kempton Park, or at least a popular brand of budget hotel a few hundred yards from the track, one which could easily be mistaken for a prison or perhaps the well signed nearby Feltham Young Offenders Institute.

On the upside it does sit within crawling distance of one of the finest Indian restaurants in the country – if seven litres of Cobra and a red hot madras tickle your fancy then a trip to the Zest at Sunbury Riverside would be well advised if you ever find yourself detained in this neck of the woods.

Despite extensive efforts I’ve never yet qualified for a free stay at a young offenders establishment, though perhaps tonight could be the night if I go bertie and have one too many peshwari naans.

You’ll know for sure by 8am if we’re a man down on the Morning Line.

Providing my good friend Jack Frost behaves himself (temperatures could dip to -2 overnight) and doesn’t do too much damage to Clerk of the Course Barney Clifford’s lovingly tended to ground we should be set for a cracking afternoon, with the William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle the centre piece of three live races on Channel 4, alongside four possibly even better ones from Warwick.

A field of 20 line up in the Lanzarote itself at 2.50pm, a race in which I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a big run from top weight Spirit Of Adjisa.

His success in Grade 1 Novice company at Punchestown in May was certainly no fluke, and at 28/1 he looks a big price each way, despite a hint of vulnerability against some unexposed types further down the field.

Several have a definite chance, and I’ll be hoping for a solid run from Colin Tizzard’s up and coming Ohio Gold – he has form with my own family’s Knock A Hand and it’s fascinating to see him upped so markedly in class and unleashed into handicap company when he could have run under a double penalty in another novice.

Whether he’ll be good enough at this early stage of his career is impossible to say, although bear in mind he was a more than fair eighth in the Neptune at Cheltenham last March.

Old rivals Featherbed Lane and Decoy are back for more, but the one to give them all a run for their money is Nick Williams’ classy Exit To Nowhere mare Swincombe Flame, who treads the boards in handicap company for the first time and has been well backed earlier in the week.

Connections were worried she wouldn’t get in, but there she is at the foot of the handicap lurking with intent under a low weight and with conditions to suit.

Winner of four of her five races she has mostly made it look effortless up ’til now, including bagging a mares’ race at Wincanton on Boxing Day with plenty up her sleeve.

The step up in trip to 2m 5f should bring about further improvement, we know she’s effective on the surface, and the winner of the listed Mares’ Final at Sandown has to be taken very seriously indeed.

Jockey William Kennedy has been amongst the winners in recent days, and he can bag a high profile success here aboard Swincombe Flame – back her each way at a standout 8/1 with Victor Chandler.

Half an hour later I couldn’t help but be drawn to top weight Fine Parchment in the 0-135 two and a half mile Handicap Chase (3.20pm).

The handicapper has dropped him just enough that he can sneak into this race, and trainer Charlie Mann cleverly employs the services of five pound claimer Peter Carberry to lessen the burden of his hefty weight.

He went into the Paddy Power Gold Cup on 144 after a fine second to Hector’s Choice at Aintree in October (the form of which has since been well franked), but now drops back to 135 after a couple of forgivable efforts – plenty don’t land a blow in the Paddy Power, and the ground was his undoing at Aintree last time.

After a nice break of 42 days, on better ground, against lesser opposition, don’t be surprised if he bounces back in an open looking race; the 12’s with Ladbrokes looks too big, simple as that.

There are several things in life that make my tongue involuntarily hang out, one of them is Sienna Miller, another is the Penrith Tea Rooms scene in the film Withnail & I, while a decent paella and an ice cold San Miguel or a bottle of good Rioja usually does the trick, as does a San Carlo Seafood Royale, but the quality of sport on offer at Warwick on Saturday afternoon comes close, not least the Classic Chase in which I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a command performance from David Pipe’s Sona Sasta.

This potentially well handicapped nine year old gets in with a feather weight off a mark of 132, and if he’s forgiven a below par effort in Ireland over Christmas there’s a lot to like about his overall profile.

His previous run now reads very well in light of how that form has worked out (two and a half lengths adrift of subsequent Welsh National winner), he is effective on a range of ground and boasts a convincing strike rate over fences (two wins and a second from five starts).

He should see out the marathon trip, and can use his light weight to good advantage to see off some thoroughly exposed rivals.

The 7/1 with William Hill looks more than okay.

Good luck!

Saturday’s best bets around the country:

2.50 Kempton Park – William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle (Handicap) – 19 Swincombe Flame (each way) @ 8/1 (Victor Chandler)

3.20 Kempton Park – William Hill – Home Of Betting Handicap Chase – 1 Fine Parchment (each way) @ 12/1 (Ladbrokes)

3.40 Warwick – Betfred Classic Chase (Handicap) – 6 Sona Sasta (win) @ 7/1 (William Hill)

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Posted 5 years, 8 months ago

21 Sep
2011

Friday’s Best Bets At Newmarket & Worcester

The Channel 4 cameras are in attendance on the Rowley Mile this afternoon, but as in keeping with Thursday’s Newmarket action winners probably won’t be easy to come by with some fiendishly tricky tests on the card for punters.

One contest where I thought we might have a bit of joy to build up weekend funds is the Group 2 Nayef Joel Stakes over a mile at 2.25pm.

I like the look of the old timer Premio Loco to show his younger rivals a clean set of heels, he was right back to his best when scoring in the same grade at Doncaster last time, thrives on fast ground, and can notch his fifth win at this level given that he gets in here without a penalty.

I have to say doubts about his chief market rivals also bolster confidence – Poet’s Voice ran a stinker to finish last of seven when 15/8 favourite in the Celebration Mile, Ransom Note ideally wants further than just a mile, conversely Libranno has to prove his stamina at the trip, while Tazahum is the one most likely to derail our best laid plans, but he needs to up his game even further to see off Premio Loco.

Despite being seven years of age Premio Loco looks as good as ever, and if he reproduces the same zest which saw him secure third in the Lockinge or win at Donny last time out then the 9/2 with Boylesports or Paddy Power is well worth dipping in for.

Switching codes there’s growing excitment among National Hunt followers with the season proper drawing tantalislingly closer, and at Worcester today I reckon another veteran can show the young’uns how it’s done as Charlie Longsdon’s Lord Jay Jay lines up for the two mile handicap chase at 4.30pm.

A previous course and distance winner, expect the eleven year old to bounce out and make all under capable conditional Kielan Woods.

The drop in trip will be in his favour, and I’m not sure anything will be able to reel him in as he bids to add to his Stratford win last time out.

It’ll certainly make for an exhilerating experience watching the race anyway!

Good luck!

Friday’s best bets:

2.25 Newmarket – Nayef Joel Stakes – 3 Premio Loco (win) @ 9/2 (Paddy Power or Boylesports)

4.30 Worcester – Frederick William Thorpe Handicap Chase – 2 Lord Jay Jay (win) @ 5/2 (Blue Square)

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Posted 6 years ago

16 Sep
2011

The Bare Facts About This Weekend’s Best Bets

It’s a day in front of the C4 cameras at Newbury on Saturday for yours truly, but firstly a word of advice for any keen ramblers or walkers amongst you:

Should you see fit to embark upon an eight mile hike along a coast path (in this instance the South Hams’ scenic Hope Cove to Salcombe via Soar Mill Cove route) I’d strongly recommend you avoid nudist beaches when in the company of any more mature female members of your family/social circle.

Picture the scene: 10am Thursday morning, we pause for a bit of fresh air about four miles deep on this epic voyage, stopping to take in the stunning scenery at a picturesque inlet evoking images of smugglers and pirates on the rocky coast, only for an ageing bald man (not me) to come wading out of the sea in full James Bond style, plums fully on display to the watching world (myself and companion, plus the odd penguin and seagull).

“Ooh, I don’t think he’s got any clothes on, have you got my binoculars?” came the immediate response to my right.

Alarmed to discover a pair of Olympus Pathfinder binos filling the right hand pocket of my crisply ironed cagoule, I upped the pace and did the only honourable thing; ran away.

Scarred by that experience I’ll be relieved to be back among friends at Newbury, and with a very good Flat card in prospect before the Berkshire track turns to hosting it’s winter National Hunt programme, we’ve got an excellent chance of harpooning a winner or two into the bargain.

Our first live race on Channel 4 arrives courtesy of the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Arc Trial at 2.00pm, a race won 12 months ago by the reappearing Dangerous Midge, who took this as a stepping stone on the way to glory at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Evaluating his chance is tricky, not least because he’s only been seen once since then, when finishing plum last of 14 in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March.

A meaty 175 days off the track hints at the problems he’s experienced since then, though he did win at the first time of asking in 2010.

Although he’s top rated on 119 I’m prepared shop elsewhere, although if fully tuned up he’d be certain to run a massive race, especially in light of how easily he won this last season.

Attempting to concede three pounds and more to all comers Green Destiny is sure to have plenty of fans – he’s made hay this year, netting a Newmarket handicap first time out, as well as the John Smith’s Cup, and York’s Group 3 Strensall Stakes.

Bang in form and the winner of five of his eight career starts, he too poses a big threat for William Haggas and Kieren Fallon.

There’s also old Halicarnassus who won this back in 2007, but I’m keen to take a chance on the only three year old in the race, Dubawi colt Al Kazeem for Roger Charlton and the underrated Steve Drowne.

Although he’s still only a baby compared to the opposition he’s already earned the label of being something of a Newbury specialist, with two wins and a second among four course appearances in just five career starts.

A thorough stayer at trips up to a mile and a half, he positively hacked up against his own age group in the London Gold Cup Handicap in May, with fifth placed Dominant franking that form by going on to win a £150,000 sales race at Newmarket, followed by finishing just a length and a quarter third to Twice Over in a York Group Two.

For further evidence of the quality of that form consider this: the fourth horse Rastaban has since won twice (at Thirsk and Goodwood), third horse Fulgur went in at Newmarket in July, and second placed Labarinto has since won a fiercely competitive Glorious Goodwood Handicap.

Al Kazeem’s sights were then upped markedly, taking in York’s Group 2 St Leger Trial the Great Voltigeur; although sent off a 16/1 no hoper against the likes of 120-rated Seville and Namibian he beat them both, though not eventual Leger third Sea Moon, who streaked home eight lengths clear of the opposition with Al Kazeem a clear second best.

That represented a vast improvement, holding his own at level weights against a proven Group 1 performer like Seville, who prior to that run was second in the Irish Derby and second in the Grand Prix de Paris.

Granted this represents a different challenge against the older horses, but at this stage of the campaign there aren’t such pronounced fears about taking on a higher age group in races of this type, particularly when there’s a handy weight allowance involved.

Having already won at Newbury as a juvenile on Good to Soft the going should hold no fears, and despite the calibre of opposition I’ll happily side with Al Kazeem to upset his older rivals on this occasion. Win bet at 4/1 with Bet365.

I’m also having a punt in the Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes over six furlongs at 2.30pm, a race in which the Gimcrack winner Caspar Netscher is likely to be a popular selection in the hands of Kieren Fallon.

He holds an entry in the Middle Park and is clearly improving, but so does old rival Saigon, a Royal Applause colt trained by James Toller who beat Caspar Netscher in the listed Rose Bowl Stakes at Newbury in mid July.

Both turned up in the Richmond Stakes at Glorious Goodwood with Caspar Netscher third and Saigon fifth, putting the score at one each.

Saigon went on to run a decent race behind Shumoos on the All Weather at Kempton in the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes, running on strongly without quite reaching the leaders.

Saigon is yet to race on Good to Soft (both wins came on Good to Firm), but his sire won a Haydock Sprint Cup on easy ground, and he should be able to handle underfoot conditions.

Caspar Netscher has to concede weight all round here, Saigon has plenty of scope for improvement on just his fifth outing, and I think regular pilot Kirsty Milczarek will fancy her chances of booting home a high profile winner.

Several of these could be dangerous given that six of the nine feature in the Middle Park entries; I’m a big fan of the Hannon colt Crown Dependency though Hughesie chooses the other stable runner Redact (fourth in the Super Sprint), but on balance I’m happy to side with Saigon to pay for the crispy shredded duck at what’s likely to be a bit of value.

They also race at Newmarket where the Cesarewitch Trial is the feature race at 3.30pm (live on 4), but a little later it may pay to side with Luca Cumani’s On Her Way in the EBF “NotNowcato” Fillies’ Handicap over a mile and a half at 4.05pm.

A daughter of Medicean she’s a bit of a character On Her Way, sometimes needing to be taken down to the start early to avoid her getting too worked up in the preliminaries.

However, this is only her third run of the season (with a pair of seconds under her belt), a mark of 83 may underestimate her scope for improvement, and what’s more the step up in trip should give her more time to get her act together.

I don’t think she’ll be far away. Win bet at 13/2 with William Hill.

Lastly, if you happen to be passing Wolverhampton racecourse on the way home from Newbury as I will, there has to be a temptation to drop in and back Heather Main’s Beautiful Lando in a weak looking 0-65 handicap at 7.50pm.

A course and distance winner after making all to take an identical race last Friday, Main has again secured the services of Kieren Fallon.

Having gone up five pounds to a mark of 65 Beautiful Lando has to shoulder joint top weight, but he won easily last week and Fallon will almost certainly attempt to repeat the trick of blasting off out in front and seeing if anything can get to him (doubtful).

This is a career high mark and he’s no superstar, but this is a woeful contest and he has the best pilot, best tactics, goes well here and is bang in form.

Bizarrely Main dispatched this horse to Deauville to run in an All Weather claimer at the end of August – he acquitted himself well in finishing third, but I’ll take him maintaining his 100% record at Wolverhampton with pleasure. Win bet.

A final note – if you are going to Wolverhampton keep a watchful eye out for an abandoned, rusting, slime green Peugeot 206 sitting forlornly in the car park – the culprit will be reading this – you know who you are….

Good luck!

Saturday’s best bets from around the country:

2.00 Newbury – Dubai Duty Free Arc Trial – 8 Al Kazeem (win) @ 4/1 with Bet365

2.30 Newbury – Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes – 8 Saigon (win) @ 4/1 with William Hill

4.05 Newmarket – EBF “NotNowcato” Fillies’ Handicap – 3 On Her Way (win) @ 13/2 with William Hill

7.50 Wolverhampton – williamhill.com Handicap – 2 Beautiful Lando (win)

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Posted 6 years ago

02 Sep
2011

Misty Clearing Away – Saturday’s Leopardstown Forecast

A slow moving car ferry in the middle of the Irish Sea wasn’t the first place I’d anticipated writing this week’s column, but after the sterling efforts of Richard ‘Bulldog’ Smith in my place seven days ago, it’s certainly good to be back.

Those of you who read his thoughts, including some supposed insight into my holiday in the south of France, may now be labouring under the illusion that I spent my time re-enacting a sordid scene from Geordie Shore for the week, but for the record Lord Culcheth doesn’t even have a passport, and if you acted like one of those cretins from the aforementioned series where I was staying, you’d probably get gunned down by the French police within a matter of minutes.

A resounding not guilty your Honour!

First though a word on a whopper of a sports story this week, with the immensely likeable Owen Hargreaves creating quite an oomska by putting pen to paper on a deal with Manchester City.

Immediately vilified by large sections of his former club Manchester United’s fanbase, frankly I’m baffled and a tad disappointed by their reaction.

United fans are suddenly suggesting an act of treachery after their club paid Hargreaves in full while he spent aeons (the best part of three years) on the treatment table, doing their best to nurse him back to full fitness.

The predominant thought appears to be why City? How could he? Especially when others clubs such as Spurs, Villa and West Brom were meant to be sniffing around as well.

What we don’t know is if any of those other clubs tabled a concrete offer, but either way where would you go, a team destined for mid table oblivion at best, or one (however grotesque and anti-football City’s spending habits might appear) booked a for Champions League football and a sustained title challenge?

Money is no object to City nowadays, so why no take a punt on a player who, if regaining his mojo, would walk into literally any Premiership side. And if he doesn’t, surely City will simply shrug and say ‘so what?’….

The little football Hargreaves did play for United was outstanding, notably his decisive free-kick against Arsenal in April ’08, plus his nerveless penalty in the shootout against Chelsea in Moscow.

That sections of their support should now by showering him with toxic abuse is ridiculous, he’s a recent European Cup winner in their colours after all, but perhaps those quick to turn on him are the same morons who booed Peter Schmeichel when he returned to Old Trafford in the blue of City 10 years ago.

Surely those fans would do better campaigning against the ownership of the hated parasitic Glazer family than worrying about the movements of a former favourite…

Put it another way, if you were Hargreaves what would you have done? A top four side is willing to take a punt on you and you don’t even have to move house. Easy. He’s a player, not a fan, and I can’t imagine it took more than a split second for him to say ‘yes please!’

Another argument runs along the lines of his stated ambition to pay 40 games this season, when at City he might get a third of that if he’s lucky, whereas at a West Brom he’d be the first name on the teamsheet fitness permitting.

It still doesn’t hold though; a fit Hargreaves is superior to Yaya Toure, James Milner, Gareth Barry and whoever else City have up their sleeve put together. If he’s fit, they’ll play him. End of.

For what it’s worth I’m very doubtful he will ever reappear as anything other than a shadow of his former self, and even if he does how’s his body going to stand up to the rigours of the cut and thrust of Premier League football?

Are the likes of Steven Gerrard, Joey Barton or Darren Fletcher going to go easy on him in a 50-50? I think we all know the answer to that, and with his aborted four minute comeback against Wolves last November still fresh in the memory, it is a leap of faith to imagine him sprinting from box-to-box as a midfield destroyer once again, but hats off to him for his willpower and tenacity.

Lest we forget he offered to play for free but United let him go with en eye on blooding the brilliant Tom Cleverley (who needs Sneijder?), and as a pro and a free agent he merely exercised his right to earn a living wherever he sees fit.

Fair play to Hargreaves if you ask me, though I might be in a rather small minority if he emerges from the Old Trafford tunnel in a blue shirt on the fourth weekend of October!

I want curly hair too.

Anyway, back to the racing. Eschewing the delights of home soil and a sure to be packed Haydock Park in favour of a trip to Ireland on behalf of RTE, it’ll be a new format at Leopardstown on Saturday afternoon with the course executive opting for a 3.40pm kick off time to try and capture a larger crowd and tv audience.

It has certainly worked well for Punchestown, so all my six fingers are crossed for a similar outcome for their Flat racing counterparts.

It’s hard to envisage an upset in the big race at the Dublin track as just six go to post for the feature Group 1 Red Mills Champion Stakes at 6.45pm, with Aussie import So you Think the clear pick to justify odds on quotes across the board.

He’s currently 6/1 third favourite with Ladbrokes for the Arc, a position he should consolidate here.

He had chief market rival Snow Fairy 10 lengths behind in the Eclipse at Sandown two months ago, and although she then improved to run second to Midday in the Nassau she’s got a big ask on here, especially as the record books show the last filly to take this was Timarida way back in 1996.

At a suffocating 1/3 though we’ll leave So You Think well alone, especially with his Royal Ascot reverse at the hands of the ill-fated Rewilding in mind, and instead go fishing in the other Group 1 on the card.

That’s the Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes run over a mile at 5.40pm, a race in which Galileo filly Misty For Me can stamp her authority and add to a seasonal haul which already includes the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Pretty Polly Stakes.

One of three representatives for Aidan O’Brien I can’t see the ground or the drop back in trip being an issue, she slaughtered the subsequent Nassau winner last time out, has had a lovely break between races, and has plenty in hand on official ratings.

It’s a big day for Seamie Heffernan given that he rides both the Ballydoyle Group 1 hot pots, and I think he’ll be booting home a double.

Back Misty For Me at 11/8 with Boylesports.

There’s certainly no shortage of racing to choose from in England, with spread of seven meetings to sift through.

Down at Kempton I really like the look of William Haggas’s Harris Tweed to get the better of Modun in the card opening Betfred September Stakes at 2.15pm.

Both are four years of age, but while Modun steps up out of handicap company (fourth in the Ebor latest) Harris Tweed has been performing at this level and higher on a consistent basis.

Granted he hasn’t yet won this season, but Harris Tweed has plenty of class, as demonstrated by four consecutive placings in Group company: third in the Group 3 Ormonde Stakes at Chester, second in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, second in a Glorious Goodwood Group 3, and fourth in the Lonsdale last time out.

Dropping back in trip here I expect him to relish the surface – indeed he has two runs on the All Weather to his name from his juvenile campaign.

Two of his four career wins have come at this trip, and a first win of 2011 beckons for Harris Tweed. Win bet.

Good luck!

Saturday’s best bets:

2.15 Kempton – Betfred September Stakes – 4 Harris Tweed (win) @ 9/4 with William Hill or Coral

5.40 Curragh – Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes – 6 Misty For Me (win) @ 11/8 (Boylesports)

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Posted 6 years ago

26 Aug
2011

Saturday’s Best Bets From Goodwood & Newmarket

With Tom away on one of his regular trips to the South of France, for the second time in the space of a month he’s left “The Bulldog” in charge of providing the weekend’s racing tips. Thankfully, stepping in to Tom’s shoes this week isn’t quite as unexpected as when he was stranded without internet access in Galway last month! Therefore, there’s been plenty of time to trawl through Saturday’s Racecards in search a couple of winners and with a bit of luck, we’ll keep up the good run of form the column has enjoyed of late.

It’s safe to say that it’s not the best weekend’s racing of the year but with Group One races just about every weekend during September and October, we’re entering what for many is the best time of the year for flat racing. Tom has therefore picked a good weekend to enjoy a cold glass of Kronenbourg and the 30° temperatures that Nice has to offer before a hectic couple of months, not that we’re jealous of course!

One thing we’re certainly not jealous of is the ‘techno’ music that he and sidekick, Lord Culcheth, will be bopping away to in the Cote d’Azur town’s number one nightspot, the Iguane Café, a far cry from when the same duo were recently spotted doing the conga around the Bury Met at a Lancashire Hotpots gig. I dread to think what they got up to whilst celebrating Tom’s birthday this past week but feel free to ask whilst wishing him a belated birthday via his twitter – @tomstips.

Speaking of celebrations, The Betfair Celebration Mile at Goodwood on Saturday afternoon is the day’s feature race and one in which the Godolphin trained Poet’s Voice can win now back on British soil for almost 12 months.

Only a field of seven go to post for this Group Two, which is live on Channel 4 at 3:20 and Poet’s Voice is the clear pick having won this very race last year by an emphatic 4 1/2 lengths before seeing off a very useful field in the Group One, Queen Elizabeth II stakes, over a mile at Ascot last September.

He was stepped up in trip in the Champion Stakes to no affect at the back end of last season and his second chance over 10 furlongs came in the Dubai World Cup in March where again he failed to make an impression. He’s been off the track since then but returns to a mile at the Sussex venue on Saturday where he has every chance of making a return to winning ways.

Dubawi Gold, half brother to Poet’s Voice, is the only three year old in the race and as such, receives 7lbs from his older rivals and holds claims based on his two seconds in the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas earlier in the season but his last two runs have been well below par and it’s a big ask to bounce back to form in this company.

Others who would be in with a chance if bouncing back to form include Premio Loco and Beacon Lodge, both of whom who have had respectable careers at this level but neither are getting any younger and both find winning hard these days.

The Group One win of Poet’s Voice really does set him apart from the others here and with stablemate, Emerald Commander, sure to set a good gallop, it’s hard to look beyond Frankie Dettori adding to his impressive record at Goodwood this season where he has a 28% strike rate and a win bet on Poet’s Voice at 11/8 with Coral looks the way to go.

Half an hour later in Goodwood’s 3:50, Richard Hannon’s Casual Glimpse will be looking to make it back-to-back course and distance victories in the Betfair Summer Double Second Leg Stakes Heritage Handicap having won at the Glorious meeting a few weeks ago. However, the three year old will be carrying 2lbs more following that win and could be vulnerable in what is a competitive field of useful handicappers.

The John Gosden trained Bronze Prince is eligible for a £100,000 bonus from the race sponsor if he can win this after winning leg one of the double at Ascot last month. An impressive winner on that occasion when returning to his favoured seven furlong trip, this lightly raced four year old could still have his head in front of the handicapper and it would be no surprise to see him go close but with proven course form such an important factor at Goodwood it’s worth looking elsewhere.

Back to the race that Casual Glimpse won the other week, he was lucky on that occasion to emerge victorious in a blanket finish and the one that caught the eye on was the Mick Channon trained Chilworth Lad who went from last to first almost, finishing less than half a length behind the winner. Chilworth Lad was giving Casual Glimpse 4lb that day and now they run off the same weight. There’s no denying that Hannon’s runner won well but given the weight advantage, Chilworth Lad represents good value at 16/1 with Coral and has solid each way claims.

In Channel 4’s other live race of the afternoon, the Chris Blackwell Memorial Hopeful Stakes (Newmarket 3:30) can go the way of Monsieur Chevalier who drops to listed company having raced in Group Ones on his last three starts, including a second in the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

After a hugely promising juvenile campaign, the Richard Hannon trained runner missed all of last season and it’s now over two years since his last win but he’s held his own well in company much better than Saturday’s field already this term and whilst he’s not one to pin all hopes on, it’s certainly worth a speculative punt that he can return to winning ways here and it’s Coral again who go stand out with their quote of 5/2.

Saturday’s Best Bets

3:20 Goodwood – Poet’s Voice (win) @ 11/8 with Coral

3:30 Newmarket – Monsieur Chevalier (win) @ 5/2 with Coral

3:50 Goodwood – Chilworth Lad (each way) @ 16/1 with Coral

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Posted 6 years, 1 month ago

17 Aug
2011

Time To Turn The Air Blue In Darley Yorkshire Oaks – Thursday’s Tips

York’s four day Ebor Meeting got off to a flyer on Wednesday afternoon, and more of the same will do very nicely with three days of top notch action lined up and ready to go.

Thursday’s big race is the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks (3.40pm, live on C4), and after she did this column a huge favour when getting up to deny Banimpire in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh a month ago, there’s no way I can advise anything other than a win bet on Blue Bunting for Godolphin and Frankie Dettori.

Speed, stamina and an abundance of grit mark this daughter of Dynamformer down as a special filly, and she needed all of those qualities and more when seeing off the re-opposing Banimpire on Yielding ground in Ireland 32 days previously.

The short head winning margin suggests there isn’t much between them, but I fancy them to fight out a decent finish and Blue Bunting to prevail once again, especially as this is a home game for her whereas as Banimpire has to travel here from Ireland.

It’s been some season for Mahmood Al Zarooni’s flagbearer, with an English Guineas to go on the mantelpiece alongside her top level Irish win, and at 3/1 with William Hill I’m very keen on the idea of her adding a third Group 1 to her haul for the 2011 campaign.

Of the opposition Banimpire is clearly made of a sturdy stuff and isn’t one to throw the towel in when a scrap is in the offing, but a series of hard races could have left their mark.

Of the older mares Crystal Capella is the obvious one, but she rarely manages to put it together at this rarified level, and what’s more the challenge of conceding 10lbs to three years olds as good as these looks beyond her if you ask me.

Keep it simple: a decent sized bet on Blue Bunting to win the Darley Yorkshire Oaks at 3/1 with Hills is the way forward.

York should suit her and the ground will be perfect.

Elsewhere on the card some very good juvenile fillies line up in the Group 2 Lowther Stakes over six furlongs at 2.30pm, and the one that stands out in my eyes is Barry Hills’ unbeaten Angels Will Fall, who arrives here in great nick after scorching the turf on her debut at Windsor (over five furlongs), and then successfully stepping up to six when a winner at Ascot in July.

Like several in what looks an above average renewal of the contest she looks to have bags of scope for improvement, but I really liked the way she went about her business on similar ground at Ascot, and at 4/1 with Bet365 or Paddy Power she looks worthy of an interest.

If you’re looking for one at bigger odds don’t be afraid to throw a few quid each way at Tony Newcombe’s Leviathan in the 20 runner Addleshaw Goddard Handicap at 3.05pm.

I’m absolutely convinced this fella has got one of these in him, and with a lovely low racing weight (the handicapper dropped him a pound to 91 after his last outing) I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Steve Drowne was able to put his nose in front when it matters, and at 20/1 with either Victor Chandler or Paddy Power I’m looking forward to seeing if he can.

Here he steps back up to a mile after failing to run his race at Ascot over shorter last time out, but if you think back to his Salisbury win in June off 89, or his unlucky seventh at Sandown on Eclipse day then he must have a squeak in this.

Having run respectably there in the past the track won’t hold any surprises for him, and an each way investment beckons.

Good luck!

Thursday’s best bets at York:

2.30 – Jaguar Cars Lowther Stakes – 4 Angels Will Fall (win) @ 4/1 (Bet365 or Paddy Power)

3.05 – Addleshaw Goddard Stakes (Handicap) – 16 Leviathan (each way) @ 20/1 (Victor Chandler or Paddy Power)

3.40 – Darley Yorkshire Oaks – 6 Blue Bunting (win) @ 3/1 (William Hill)

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Posted 6 years, 1 month ago