Posts Tagged ‘ tips ’

04 Apr

2014 Crabbie’s Grand National Preview

Racing pundit, Tom Lee, of Channel 4 Racing and RTE in Ireland, writes weekly on, providing visitors with his thoughts on all the big races with a few tips for good measure. Here’s what he’s got to say about the 2014 Grand National in a bumper column…

First run 175 years ago in 1839, the Crabbie’s Grand National is the world’s most famous race, and with its unique fences, massive media build up, huge attendance, and vast worldwide audience, commands a place in the minds of once a year punters as well as hardened aficionados of the turf.

There’s something uniquely thrilling about seeing a field of 40 charging towards the first fence as they embark on their near four and a half mile journey, and that’s only heightened by the fact this year’s race is the first time ever the National will be run for a total prize fund of £1,000,000, with £561,300 going to the winner.

So, aside from pointing out the absolute folly of betting with anyone except the firms offering a very generous six places to each backers (step forward Bet Victor) without further ado, who’ll be adding their name to the roll of honour and pocketing that not inconsequential sum?

Tom Lee’s 2014 Grand National Selections:

9. Balthazar King (each way) @ 20/1 (BetVictor – going SIX PLACES each way)

29. Pineau De Re (each way) @ 20/1 (Betfred)


Here’s the low down of all 40 declared runners: Click here for the latest Grand National betting.

1. Tiday Bay – Paul Nicholls & Sam Twiston-Davies (bet on Tidal Bay)

No 13-year-old has won the National since Sergeant Murphy way back in 1923, but to be fair there aren’t too many 13-year-olds (or essentially equine pensioners in circulation) who possess Tidal Bay’s iron constitution.

An extraordinary horse, the handicapper has given him a big chance by allowing him to run from a mark of 161, some seven pounds lower than his official mark, though he does of course still have to face up to the challenge of lugging top weight, a feat no horse has managed since the great Red Rum back in 1974!!!

His jockey was celebrating after winning on The New One at Aintree on Thursday, and despite his advancing years Tidal Bay is very much a live contender to add this race to a CV that already boasts an Arkle, a Grade 1 win over fences at Aintree as a novice, a Cleeve Hurdle, a bet365 Gold Cup, successive runnings of the Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle, a Lexus Chase, a Hennessy second (when giving the subsequent Gold Cup winner six pounds and beaten only three lengths), and a Welsh National third.

Unseated at fence no.10 in his only previous try in the National in 2010.

2. Long Run – Nicky Henderson & Sam Waley-Cohen (bet on Long Run)

Perhaps it’s important to be called Sam and own a double-barreled surname to ride one of the top weights in this year’s National?!

Joking aside, Long Run is another formidable contender who has been cut some slack by the handicapper.

Racing here off 160, this son of Cadoudal saw off the combined might of Denman and Kauto Star to win the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup, and is also a dual King George VI Chase winner, as well as having been placed in two more Gold Cups in 2012 and 2013.

He seems to have been around forever, but still only nine years of ago it makes sense to take aim at a National at a time when his three mile form seems to have dipped a little.

The Waley-Cohen’s are already enjoying an Aintree to remember after Warne’s emphatic display in the Foxhunter, and Long Run could out them on cloud nine with a famous National victory.

They’ll be praying his sometimes questionable jumping holds together.

3. Hunt Ball – Nicky Henderson & Andrew Tinkler (bet on Hunt Ball)

Nowadays a stablemate of Long Run, this horse was one of the stories of the 2011/12 National Hunt season when in the care of trainer Keiran Burke and running in the silks of colourful owner Anthony Knott, he progressing from a mark of 69 in November, to end the campaign rated 157!!!

A seven race winning spree culminating in a novice handicap at the Cheltenham Festival fuelled that euphoric rise, and even then there was enough juice in the tank to run third behind Follow The Plan in the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl at Aintree.

Sold for big money to race in America, the style of racing and quicker ground in the States was anything but his cup of tea, and he’s now back and in the care of Nicky Henderson.

His fourth in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival proved at least some of the old spark is still there, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him hogging the headlines once again.

4. Triolo D’Alene – Nickly Henderson & Barry Geraghty (bet on Triolo D’Alene)

No seven-year-old has landed the Grand National since Bogskar way back in 1940, but a lively contender to snap that trend is the Nicky Henderson inmate Triolo D’Alene.

A winner of two races in his native France before joining team Henderson, this horse has made rapid strides in the last 12 months, winning the extended 2m 5f Topham Chase over the National fences a year ago, before going on to win the Hennessy at Newbury at the end of November.

A very popular each way bet prior to finishing tenth in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, the biggest question is perhaps how much that run took out of him and whether he’s ready to deliver in another attritional contest?

5. Rocky Creek – Paul Nicholls & Noel Fehily (bet on Rocky Creek)

Paul Nicholls won this race with 33/1 shot Neptune Collonges back in 2012, and possesses another strong contender to get his hands on the prize once again in the shape of talented eight-year-old Rocky Creek.

Kept fresh since a second at Cheltenham at the end of January, there are no concerns about this horse recently having had a hard race.

Pre-Christmas he was a gutsy second when conceding four pounds to Triolo D’Alene in the Hennessy, and at the end of last season picked up prize money when third in a Grade 1 novice chase at Aintree.

Noel Fehily guided Silviniaco Conti home for Nicholls in the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl at Aintree on Thursday, and they’ll be hopeful of landing an even bigger prize here.

6 Quito De La Roque – Colm Murphy & Brian O’Connell (bet on Quito De La Roque)

The highest rated Irish contender, Quito De La Roque is a front or at least prominent runner who might prefer conditions a little softer than he’s likely to encounter here (though he has won on Good ground).

Fourth in last year’s Betfred Bowl, his jumping has let him down at times in the 2013/14 campaign, especially when pulling up in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse in February.

7. Colbert Station – Ted Walsh (Bet on Colbert Station)

A talented stayer on his day, Colbert Station comes with a bit of a warning attached given that he has unseated and then fallen in two of his last three runs, and indeed unseated at the Chair in last year’s National.

Trained by my RTE colleague Ted Walsh, who won the National in 2000 with Papillon, he’d be a very popular winner, but only if he can eradicate those niggling mistakes.

8. Walkon – Alan King & Wayne Hutchinson (bet on Walkon)

Won a Grade 1 here over hurdles way back in 2009, and showed his affinity for the big fences on the National couse when second to Triolo D’Alene in the Topham a year ago.

The big query for fans of Walkon has to be his stamina – will he stay an inch beyond three miles?

That, allied to his two disappointing runs, make him a less likely winner among those towards the top of the weights.

9. Balthazar King – Philip Hobbs & Richard Johnson (bet on Balthazar King)

Course experience (15th in this 12 month ago) and stamina to burn from a horse who’ll jump pretty much anything as long as he has his preferred Good (ish) ground make Balthazar King a tempting each way prospect.

A remarkably consistent winner of 11 of his 22 starts over fences, this horse has been very happily re-invented as a Cross Country marvel by his ultra shrewd trainer.

He was as tough as old boots to successfully carry top weight around the 3m 7f of Cheltenham’s demanding banks course to win the Cross Country at the Festival 24 days ago, and if he’s over those exertions then he must hold a major shout.

His racing weight (10.13) is a pound less than the likes of recent winners Mon Mome (2009) and Ballabriggs (2011), and given that he thrives on his racing and has conditions to suit then quotes around the 25/1 mark look quite enticing.

It’s worth remembering 2007 National winner Silver Birch used the same Cross Country preparation enjoyed by this horse.

10. Wayward Prince – Hilary Parrott & Jack Doyle (bet on Wayward Prince)

The small Gloucestershire stable of Hilary Parrott will be dreaming of Grand National glory with this talented sort whose last win came over regulation fences at Aintree some 16 months ago in December 2012.

Four years ago he won a Grade 1 here over hurdles, but it’s his more recent form which tempers enthusiam…

A narrow 50/1 second in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November (when just seen off by Harry Topper), Wayward Prince hasn’t sparked the last twice, pulling up at Aintree and then trailing in a long way behind in Doncaster’s Grimthorpe Chase.

11. Mr Moonshine – Sue Smith & Ryan Mania (bet on Mr Moonshine)

Sue Smith and Ryan Mania supplied a 66/1 surprise when adding their names to the National roll of honour 12 months ago with Auroras Encore, and this time they team up with the in-form Mr Moonshine.

Pulled up four from home a year ago, he seems a much happier and more settled horse now, and is well worth another try at this huge prize.

He proved his aptitude for the big fences when finishing third in the Becher Chase behind the re-opposing Chance Du Roy back in early December, and progressed from there to record wins at Musselburgh and Warwick, before a solid second behind the useful Maggio at Kelso.

Those good results mean he has to race from a mark of 149 in this year’s race as opposed to 139 in last year’s, but it’s also a reflection of his improvement and he won’t go unbacked by many looking for an each way contender at a nice price.

12. Teaforthree – Rebecca Curtis & Nick Scholfield (bet on Teaforthree)

An out and out stayer who has never fallen in a combined total of 18 starts over fences (including four Point to Points), this fella has topped the market for weeks.

Proved his relentless stamina as far back as two years ago when winning the four miler at the Cheltenham Festival, since then he’s been second in a Welsh National and third in this race 12 months ago.

Perhaps a little surprisingly he’s allowed to race from a two pounds lower mark this time around, though to be fair he hasn’t won in three runs since, with his most recent effort an eighth place finish in the Gold Cup.

An excellent jumper, he might be even shorter in the betting had he not run in Cheltenham, though in a 40-runner handicap some will argue his single figure price is too short given the fact we’ve been treated to winners at 100/1, 33/1 and 66/1 in the last five runnings.

You have to go back to Kirkland in 1905 to find the last Welsh trained winner…

13. Across The Bay – Donald McCain & Henry Brooke (bet on Across The Bay)

Fourteenth in last year’s race and eighth in December’s Becher Chase over the big fences, Across The Bay would be a big danger if he could iron out the creases in his jumping.

Highly capable on his day, such as when winning at Haydock in December, his bad habits resurfaced when unseating Jason Maguire back at Haydock last time out.

14. Double Seven – Martin Brassil & AP McCoy (bet on Double Seven)

One of the key antepost horses in this year’s betting, Double Seven is the mount of AP MCoy and is trained by the man who prepared Numbersixvalverde to win this race back in 2006.

A never dangerous sixth at Leopardstown on his prep run after a five month break, Double Seven is better judged on a five race winning spree from June to October, when he hoovered up prizes at Kilbeggan (x 3), Limerick and Wexford.

The last of those was off 146 (148 here), but he has to prove he can handle his first ever run outside of Ireland, as well as a huge step up in trip and much bigger fences.

15. Battle Group – Johnny Farrelly & Brendan Powell (bet on Battle Group)

Quirky but richly talented, this horse won twice during the three day National meeting in 2013, first over hurdles and then by bolting up over regulation fences on Grand National day.

Since then things have gone pair shaped to such a degree Johnny Farrelly must be at his wits end, with three runs this season resulting in a moody display in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, a total refusal to race at Newbury, and then another disaster when he dropped anchor at Ascot.

Impossible to trust, even if you were betting with stolen money, if he did decide to put a shift in then he wouldn’t be without a squeak!

16. Buckers Bridge – Henry de Bromhead & Andrew Lynch (bet on Buckers Bridge)

The winner of a Maralin Point-to-Point, two bumpers and three chases, this horse has never jumped a hurdle in public so keen were his connections to kick on and get stuck into his chasing career.

A winner at Gowran Park in November, this step up in trip is a journey into the unknown, and he was well beaten in the Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse last time out.

On what he’s shown to date he’s an unlikely winner of this year’s race.

17. Lion Na Bearnai – Tom Gibney & Davy Russell (bet on Lion Na Bernai)

A long way behind Buckers Bridge when fourth in the Bobbyjo last time out, this guy would be another shock winner.

Amberleigh House a decade ago was the last 12 year old winner, though County Meath trainer Tom Gibney has managed to enlist the services of Davy Russell.

In fairness he was successful in the 2012 Irish Grand National, but pulled up in the Scottish equivalent a year ago.

18. Prince De Beauchene – Willie Mullins (bet on Prince De Bauchene)

One of the unluckiest horses in recent National history, this horse has been prepared for the last two runnings of the race, only for fate to intervene and injury to rob him of his chance when he on both occasions he was prominent in the betting markets.

Third time lucky?

It’s worth remembering his impressive handicap win at Aintree in 2011 when in the care of Howard Johnson, plus a string of solid efforts for Willie Mullins, including a victory in the 2012 Bobbyjo.

That was two years ago though, and there’s a little bit to be taken on trust this time given his 2013/14 form: a Grade 1 third at Down Royal, a mid division finish in the English Hennessy, last of nine in the Lexus and a fourth at Thurles.

19. Monbeg Dude – Michael Scudamore & Paul Carberry (bet on Monbeg Dude)

Carberry produced one of the rides of the season to win on Guitar Pete at Aintree on Thursday, not a million miles removed from the one he conjured from Monbeg Dude when winning the 2012 Welsh Grand National.

A hold up horse, he’ll need luck in-running if he’s to stay out of trouble, especially given his sometimes erratic jumping, though the availability of Carberry is a massive plus.

That said, Tom Scudamore guided him to a superb win at Cheltenham in December, powering home after jumping fluently.

Ticks many boxes as a horse who’ll go down a storm with the housewives and general public, given the multiple public interest angles with the Scudamore family tie in with the race, his part owner being rugby star Mike Tindall, and his jumping coach being none other than Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter!

20. Big Shu – Peter Maher & Peter Buchanan (bet on Big Shu)

Third to Balthazar King at Cheltenham, this Cross Country specialist is an excellent jumper and a thorough stayer who completed the Cheltenham and Punchestown banks course Festival double in 2013.

Perhaps not blessed with such an appealing profile overall as Balthazar King, he has been deserted by Carberry who favours Monbeg Dude, but still very much possible to envisage him getting involved.

21. Burton Port – Jonjo O’Neill and Brian Harding (bet on Burton Port)

Second to Weapon’s Amnesty in the 2010 RSA Chase and a Grade 2 winner over fences at Aintree just three weeks later, how this horse has not gone on to become a superstar is a mystery!

A combination of injury problems is probably the biggest factor, but the 2010 Hennessy second endured a 14 month wait until his next race…

Fourth in the 2012 Gold Cup and second in the 2012 Betfred Bowl represent impressive form, and having made the switch from Nicky Henderson to Jonjo O’Neill last autumn it’ll be interesting to see if a wind operation can help him further.

His one run since the op brought a veterans’ chase second at Newbury at the start of March, and if he has a bit of luck then surely he has the class and stamina to get involved.

22. Our Father – David Pipe & Denis O’Regan (bet on Our Father)

David Pipe was another trainer celebrating on day one at Aintree as Doctor Harper notched in the concluding handicap hurdle.

The highest rated of his three National runners is Our Father, who isn’t the most experienced and let the side down when sent off the 11/2 favourite for the Hennessy in November, trailing in a well beaten 2o lengths behind the winner.

Further disappointments have followed when only fifth in the Haydock Grand National Trial and ninth in the Kim Muir.

23. Mountainous – Richard Lee & Jamie Moore (bet on Mountainous)

A wonderful horse who has already done plenty to contribute to a good season for my own family’s training operation, winning the Welsh National in typically gutsy fashion in the hands of Paul Moloney.

The in-form Jamie Moore (has ridden him before) takes over with Moloney unavailable on this occasion, and if a drop of rain arrives to soften the ground then he could very well excel at this unique test.

His last piece of fast work was excellent, and he’s enjoyed plenty of practice over a purpose built National style fence at home.

That said, to inject a bit of balance into these remarks it’s worth remembering he is a whopping nine pounds worse off with top weight Tidal Bay for less than length margin of victory at Chepstow.

Rag Trade, Corbiere and Earth Summit are the three horses who’ve managed to complete the Welsh/English National double in the same season.

24. The Rainbow Hunter – Kim Bailey & Aidan Coleman (bet on The Rainbow Hunter)

Showed the benefit of a wind op when a shock 25/1 winner of the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster in January.

He unseated in this race at the Canal Turn (fence no.8) a year ago though, and does tend to make mistakes.

25. Vintage Star – Sue Smith & Brian Hughes (bet on Vintage Star)

Has loads of ability, stays forever and goes on pretty much any ground, as showcased by his win on Heavy at Carlisle, and then a narrow second in Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase on Good ground pre-Christmas.

Maybe a bigger concern is his sometimes sketchy jumping, but if he takes to the fences and gets into a rhythm under an excellent jockey then there’ll definitely be worse 50/1 shots to choose from, especially given his stable’s recent record in the race!

26. Chance Du Roy – Philip Hobbs & Tom O’Brien (bet on Chance Du Roy)

Second and ninth in the last two runnings of the Topham, and put that experience over the big fences to good use when seeing off the old boy Baby Run in the Becher Chase in December.

Plenty going for him, but not so good in two runs since and has to prove as effective off his revised mark of 143.

27. Hawkes Point – Paul Nicholls & Ryan Mahon (bet on Hawkes Point)

Only an eighth chase start for a horse so narrowly denied in the Welsh National, splitting the re-opposing pair of Mountainous and Tidal Bay.

Both wins under rules have come on Heavy ground which he’s unlikely to find here, and well beaten in the Haydock Grand National Trial.

28. Kruzhlinin – Donald McCain & Wilson Renwick (bet on Kruzhlinin)

Two wins at Kelso this season (both pre-Christmas), but this is far deeper and was well beaten behind The Rainbow Hunter in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.

Would be a surprise winner.

29. Pineau De Re – Dr Richard Newland & Leighton Aspell (bet on Prineau De Re)

Came within a whisker of landing the Pertemps Hurdle Final at the Cheltenham Festival last month, denied in a thrilling three way finish by Fingal Bay and Southfield Theatre.

The Pertemps was the same preparatory route used by 2010 winner Don’t Push It, and Pineau De Re is trained by a very astute handler in Dr Newland, a man who combines running a number of business concerns alongside a select string of just 12 or so horses.

His 19 winners over the larger obstacles this season have arrived at a stunning 28% strike-rate, and this horse scored very easily over fences when striking in a veterans’ chase at Exeter in January.

That win proved he was none the worse for a tumble in the Becher Chase over these fences a few weeks previously, and if he can build on that experience then he could definitely play a part.

Formerly with Philip Fenton in Ireland, he is at home on any ground.

30. Golan Way – Tim Vaughan & Michael Byrne (Golan Way)

Highly talented dual purpose horse who flew the flag for Sheena West and her small East Sussex operation for a number of seasons.

Missed a year through injury and has re-surfaced in the care of Tim Vaughan, winning a hunter chase at Warwick last month.

31. Twirling Magnet – Jonjo O’Neill & Richie McLernon (bet on Twirling Magnet)

Struggling when unseating his rider two from home in the Kim Muir.

Enjoyed himself last spring/summer with a couple of wins at a lower level, and struck again at Cheltenham in October.

This’ll be his first start at Aintree, but he does appear to prefer a left-handed track.

32. Vesper Bell – Willie Mullins (bet on Vesper Bell)

Just one win in eight tries for this eight-year-old, who appears to prefer the ground a good bit softer than it’s likely to be here.

Verg good effort when just worn down by Goonyella over 3m 6f at Punchestown last April, but fell over these fences at the first in the Becher Chase, and then got it wrong again when unseating David Casey in the Classic Chase at Warwick.

33. The Package – David Pipe & Tom Scudamore (bet on The Package)

Comply Or Die landed the spoils for David Pipe and his team back in 2008, and on this occasion he’ll be hoping for an improved showing from the talented but inconsistent sort The Package.

Now an 11-year-old, he doesn’t run too often and it’s hard to know what to expect from a horse who unseated Graham Lee at the 19th fence in this race four years ago.

He’s only run eight times since then, but warmed up for this with a handicap chase third at the Cheltenham Festival.

Other noteworthy pieces of form include a fourth in the 2012 Hennessy, as well as a win in that season’s Badger Ales Chase at Wincanton.

It’s hard to be in any way confident where The Package is concerned, but equally he’s impossible to totally discount.

34. Raz De Maree – Dessie Hughes & Davy Condon (bet on Raz De Maree)

Dessie Hughes struck with Guitar Pete in the opening Grade 1 contest on Thursday, and his National runner Raz De Maree brings National winning form to the table, though not necessarily what you might expect…

Successful in both the Munster National at Limerick in October, and then the Cork National three weeks later, he’s another who might well really prefer softer ground than is likely to be encountered here.

Has also struggled after being catapulted up the weights (from 123 to 140) for those two wins.

35. Rose Of The Moon – David O’Meara & Jake Greenall (bet on Rose of the Moon)

Three wins from six starts over fences, and all in small fields.

Worst displays over the larger obstacles came when pulled up after endless mistakes in the 2013 National Hunt Chase, and then when not overly impressive over these fences when down the field in the Becher Chase in December.

Would have to find some improvement to play a part, though talented pilot gets on very well with him and rides this course with great skill.

36. Shakalakaboomboom – Nicky Henderson & David Bass (bet on Shakalakaboomboom)

Huge chance if he could recapture some of his old ability, and was sent off 8/1 joint favourite for this race in 2012 when finishing ninth.

That said, missed nearly two years with injury, hasn’t sparked in three runs since his return (sent off 50/1 for a Cheltenham handicap latest) and Barry Geraghty prefers stablemate Triolo D’Alene.

37. Alvarado – Fergal O’Brien & Paul Moloney (bet on Alvarado)

Very strong stayer, at home on Good ground, who scored at Cheltenham over three and a half miles in November.

This’ll be a first taste of Aintree and has to prove his last outing when pulled up at Cheltenham in January was just a blip, but might be a lively outsider in the hands of a jockey who doesn’t accept defeat easily.

38. Last Time D’Albain – Liam Cusack & Robbie Colgan (Bet on Last Time D’Albain)

Fascinating contender in that he was third in both the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December 2012, and then the Topham here last April.

Trainer seemingly keen to preserve the resultant mark of 139; he’s had a couple of quiet runs over hurdles this time around, plus one chase start.

Not inconceivable he could rediscover last year’s exciting form under a feather weight, though rain might be ideal.

39. One In A Milan – Evan Williams & Adam Wedge (bet on One In A Milan)

Usually campaigned on either Soft or Heavy ground, this’ll be just a seventh chase start for One In A Milan, who sports a first time visor on this occasion.

Third in last year’s Midlands National and fourth behind the re-opposing trio of Mountainous, Hawkes Point and Tidal Bay in the Welsh National, he certainly won’t lack for stamina.

Has to prove he can handle the Aintree fences, but like Last Time D’Albain it’s intriguing to see his mark possibly being protected with a warm up over hurdles.

40. Swing Bill – David Pipe & Conor O’Farrell (bet on Swing Bill)

The old men of the field bookend the race, with top weight Tidal Bay joined by Swing Bill in trying to become the first 13-year-old to win the National since Sergeant Murphy back in 1923.

Certainly not a prolific winner, but has been a wonderful horse for connections, and knows his way around these famous fences almost blindfolded!

Fifth in the 2011 Topham, tenth in this race in 2012, fourth in the 2012 Becher, sixth in this race last year and fifth in the 2013 Becher Chase.

Might nick a bit of prize money once again.

Good luck!

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Posted 3 years, 9 months ago

11 Mar

2014 Cheltenham Festival Tips – Tuesday 11th March

Below are the selections of our regular tipster, Tom Lee, for day one of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday 11th March.

 Race  Tom’s Selection  Betting
 1.30 – Skybet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Vautour (win) @ 4/1 (Betfred)
 2.05 – Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Dodging Bullets (each way)  6/1 (Paddy Power)
 2.40 – Baylis & Harding Handicap Chase King Massini (each way)  @ 22/1 (Coral or Paddy Power
 3.20 – Stan James Champion Hurdle Hurricane Fly (win)  @ 3/1 (bet365, BetVictor or Coral)
 4.00 – David Nicholson Mares Hurdle Quevega (win)  @ 5/6 (Coral or William Hill)
 4.40 – National Hunt Chase Foxrock (win)  @ 4/1 (bet365, BetVictor or Paddy Power
 5.15 – Rewards4racing Novices’ Handicap Chase Art Of Logistics (each way)  @ 10/1 (Paddy Power)

Follow all the action from Cheltenham at our dedicated Festival site @

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Posted 3 years, 10 months ago

04 Oct

Sealed With A Kiz? The Best Bets On Arc Weekend

The Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

First won in 1920 by Comrade in the colours of Evremond de Saint-Alary, the winner’s purse that day was 150,000 Francs (somewhere in the region of £15,000 at the time – now about enough for a round of drinks in the Brasserie Ile St Louis), but fast forward 93 years and the winner’s prize money amounts to just short of a startling £2.3m for Europe’s greatest middle distance Flat race.

It may still be behind the Melbourne Cup and the Japan Cup as it jostles for position as the world’s richest turf contest, but ask racing fans if they fancy a weekend in Paris as the leaves begin to fall and it’s likely they’ll snap your hand off.

Sedgefield or Sligo this is not, but positioned in the distant gaze of the Eiffel Tower Longchamp Racecourse provides a perfect backdrop for the annual Anglo-Irish invasion of the Bois de Boulogne.

If the stakes could barely be higher then nor could the standard, with greats such as Sea The Stars and Zarkava high on the list of brilliant recent winners.

The 2013 renewal, live on Channel 4 at 3.15pm on Sunday, looks set to be equally exciting, though persistent rain this week means Clerk of the Course Christian Delporte is reporting Soft going at the time of writing.

That news has done little to dampen the enthusiasm of the Japanese contingent, who have gone achingly close to landing a prize they covet in the past, notably via the likes of El Condor Pasa, Nakayama Festa and Deep Impact.

They thought they’d finally cracked it 12 months ago when Christophe Soumillon set sail for home and established a seemingly unassailable lead on Orfevre, only for their great hope to suffer late heartbreak at the hands of French mare Solemia.

Orfevre is back for more in 2013 and tops every bookmaker’s list on the back of his trials day win in the Prix Foy.

He was handed a brutal wide draw last year, but has enjoyed much better fortune in that respect, being alloted stall eight for Sunday’s race.

Soft ground and a kind draw will be music to the ears of trainer Yasutoshi Ikee, and his five year old sets a very high standard as he bids to go one better and atone for the disappointment of 2012.

He may well win, but at a general 9/4 there has to be a question mark about whether or not he’s now just too short to be investing in for an attritional contest like this.

What’s more, the stats are particularly kind for the older horses: just eight winners aged five or older in 92 years!

It could be that fluffing his lines last season saw his chance slip away, especially with the calibre of the 17 horses due to line up against him.

They include the unbeaten French filly Treve, now ridden by the ultra-experienced Thierry Jarnet after injury to Frankie Dettori earlier this week.

Trainer Criquette Head-Maaarek, a winner of his race with Three Troikas back in 1979, has been bullish in her pre-race comments, but this represents a new test for Treve as she takes on the opposite sex for the first time.

Supplemented alongside Leading Light and Meandre at a cost of €100,000, she will have plenty of fans.

She couldn’t have been more impressive in her last two starts, routing the opposition in both the Prix de Diane at Chantilly at Chantilly and the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp on Trials day, but the draw has not been kind – stall 15 will present a challenge.

What’s more, prior to Danedream (2011) and Zarakava (2008) you have to go back a long way to find a three year old filly winning the Arc.

So if it’s not Orfevre or Treve, what about the Andreas Wohler-trained Novellist to give Germany a second Arc success in three years?

He looks rock solid on the back of a great season which has yield a tough success in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, followed by a stunning five length romp in the King George at Ascot, before the finishing touches were applied for the trip to Paris with a win at 1/6 in the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden.

Johnny Murtagh has enjoyed an extraordinary summer – enjoying a run of success which kicked in just days after inviting me to a barbeque at his house – and he’ll be confident of adding to his Arc win on Sinndar back in 2000.

Novellist’s draw, while not perfect is manageable, with stall 12 the starting point for a horse who hasn’t been beaten in five starts since finishing fourth at Baden Baden in September 2012.

Bundles of cash for him in the last three days suggest punters believe he could be the one, and I may end up kicking myself and anyone else within range if he wins.

That said, there is an argument to suggest it wasn’t the greatest renewal of the King George he won, while only Dylan Thomas (2007) and Lammtarra (1995) have completed the Ascot-Longchamp double in the last two decades.

Flintshire (ground concerns) and Intello (trip concerns) look to be the best of Andre Fabre’s five strong team as the master trainer chases win number eight in the race.

It’s likely to be the final time we see the brilliant Al Kazeem, as he looks to sign off from a glittering campaign which so far has thrown up three Group 1’s.

He drifted markedly on Friday after being allotted a horror draw in stall 18, but a step up in trip and his favoured testing ground could see him bounce back and at least make the frame at what’s likely to be a silly price.

The Aidan O’Brien challenge has boiled down to just two in the end, but it’s a weighty duo, with Epsom Derby hero Ruler Of The World (Ryan Moore) joined by supplementary addition and St Leger winner Leading Light (Gerald Mosse).

This is a drop in trip for Leading Light (stall five) which might not be perfect, while Ruler Of The World (stall six) ran a brilliant trial in the Prix Niel, but still couldn’t get the better of Japanese Derby winner Kizuna.

Both are three year olds, the age group that have provided a staggering 21 of the last 27 Arc winners, and Ruler Of The World’s trials day conqueror could be the answer to a race that boasts incredible strength in depth.

Trained by Shozo Sasaki, Kizuna looks the ideal candidate to give Japan a yearned for first Arc success.

He is the first Japanese three year old ever to contest the race, and this has long been the plan for the nation’s Derby winner.

He’s a son of Deep Impact, who was third to pass the post in 2006 under Yutaka Take.

Take takes the mount here, and it would be a neat piece of symmetry if he could get the job done on this handsome son of one of Japan’s equine heroes.

The Niel is the strongest of the trials, but despite reportedly being a long way from fever pitch in his build up to Sunday Kizuna was still able to repel Ruler Of The World, and in doing so prove he handles the holy trinity of track, trip and ground.

The Prix Niel has thrown up nine of the last 17 Arc winners, and that bodes well for anyone grabbing a slice of the 8/1 available with the likes of Betfred, Bet Victor, Ladbrokes or Paddy Power.

He could go off a crazy price on the local Pari-Mutuel at the track, so be sure to play at conventional odds with UK bookmakers.

The draw is neither perfect nor a nightmare with stall 11 coming out of the hat, but though Orfevre is the one they expect to win it could well be compatriot Kizuna who breaks Japan’s Arc de Triomphe duck.

Elsewhere on an amazing Sunday card at Longchamp, a day featuring seven consecutive Group 1’s, there looks to be a bit of value in backing the Philippe Sogorb-trained Catcall in the five furlong Prix de l’Abbaye.

He loves Soft ground and saves his best displays for Longchamp, winning a course and distance Group 3 in May before going down by a nostril to the re-oppoaing duo of Dibajj and Mirza in his prep outing three weeks ago.

Sogorb leapt to the attention of UK punters when striking with Vorda in the Cheveley Park last Saturday, and at 14/1 each way with bet365 (who are paying 1/4 odds 4 places on the race) his runner here demands respect.

Closer to home Betfred sponsor the big £150,000 handicap at Ascot on Saturday afternoon, live on Channel 4 at 3.50pm, a race in which Richard Fahey’s Heaven’s Guest might be able to capitalise on a return to seven furlongs.

The ground should be perfect for a horse who finished with a rattle to take fourth in the Ayr Gold Cup two weeks ago, running on strongly to suggest a step back up in trip might help him return to winning ways.

Heaven’s Guest has already shown huge improvement to rise from a mark of 77 to 100 this year, but George Chaloner takes five off and a big field suits him well.

The 16’s with any of bet365, Betfred or Bet Victor looks fair in an open contest.

Last but very much not least, a big Happy Birthday to Betting Directory’s very own Richard ‘Bulldog’ Smith, a man who’s rarely spotted not sporting the very latest fashions such as his trendy elasticated faux leather bomber jacket, spends his life badgering the editorial team and fishing for information, and who’ll be celebrating in style with a bowl of his trademark Lancashire hotpot.

Many happy returns old boy.

Good luck!

This weekend’s best bets:

3.50 Ascot (Saturday) – Betfred “Goals Galore” Challenge Cup (Handicap) – 11 Heaven’s Guest (each way) @ 16/1 (bet365, Betfred or Bet Victor)

12.45 Longchamp (Sunday) – Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp – 15 Catcall (each way) @ 14/1 (bet365)

3.15 Longchamp (Sunday) – Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – 14 Kizuna (each way) @ 8/1 (Betfred, Bet Victor, Ladbrokes or Paddy Power)

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Posted 4 years, 3 months ago

19 Jun

Special K To Call The Tune In Prince Of Wales’s Rematch

Bookmakers definitely had the upper hand on a tricky opening day for punters at the Royal meeting on Tuesday afternoon, with reverses for well backed jollies Animal Kingdom and Shea Shea the notable results for the layers, on what was also a great day for the Irish as they bagged the first four winners on the card.

Huge credit must go to Jim Bolger for throwing Dawn Approach back into the fray so soon after his Derby disaster, and a hard fought St James’s Palace Stakes win will surely have been one of his most satisfying.

Elsewhere, the pace displayed by Aidan O’Brien’s unconsidered third string War Command as he put the Coventry Stakes to bed was stunning, giving O’Brien a seventh win in the race, and earning quotes as short as 5/1 for next season’s 2,000 Guineas in the process.

Breathless stuff, but there are still four days to go and this afternoon’s big race looks set to be another cracker, with a field of 11 declared for the 1m 2f Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at 3.45pm (live on Ch4).

On the strength of his smart form when trained in France by Andre Fabre Pricewise has nominated Saint Baudolino as the value angle in a competitive race, but having witnessed first hand his destruction of Camelot in last month’s Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, it’ll be a good one who beats Al Kazeem if he turns up in the same form as he was that day.

Roger Charlton’s five year old son of of Dubawi has bloomed since his injury blighted earlier days – just one run as a four year old saw him bolt up in the Jockey Club Stakes, but this season he’s fit and very much on song:

A seasonal debut at Sandown in April yielded a victory in the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes, before a first foray into Group 1 company resulted in an authoritative win against Camelot.

As for four time Group 1 winner Camelot he just doesn’t look the same horse as 12 months ago, and perhaps a combination of gruelling ground in the Irish Derby and the severe colic that required major surgery last Autumn have left a permanent mark.

It’s great to see him back, but at the time of writing bookmakers have just half a point between them in the market, and that doesn’t seem to represent the here and now.

Al Kazeem is the rising force, and can confirm Curragh form.

But will that be enough?

We already know Saint Baudolino could do some damage if Tom Segal has his way, but there’s also John Gosden’s top notch filly The Fugue, who was far too strong for her rivals in the Nassau at Glorious Goodwood, but takes on the boys for the first time.

Today’s 10 furlongs is her trip, but she’s been off the track for a long time and I wonder if she might find one or two too strong this afternoon as she bids to become the first filly since Ouija Board to win this race.

However, rather than Camelot, The Fugue or Saint Baudelino the one I fancy for the forecast is the sole French-trained contender in the field Maxios.

Trained in Chantilly by Englishman Jonathan Pease, this is another horse who’s really come to hand at the age of five, kicking off his season with a win in Longchamp’s Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt in April.

That was followed by a solid second to Pastorius in the Prix Ganay, before he netted his first Group 1 when beating Planteur to take the the Prix d’Ispahan.

Regular pilot Stephane Pasquier rides, and he’s the very same man who steered home Manduro to complete the last Prix d’Ispahan/Prince Of Wales’s Stakes double back in 2007.

Pease is an infrequent visitor to UK tracks, but surely isn’t tilting at windmills with this talented horse.

Al Kazeem is my idea of the most likely winner of the race, but Maxios can chase him home, and the reverse can provide a bit of insurance if he gets his head in front.

Later in the day it wouldn’t be Royal Ascot without having a crack at trying to solve the 30-runner Royal Hunt Cup (4.25pm).

Only four favourites have struck in this in the last 50 years and no filly has won for 10 years, so I probably wouldn’t be rushing to back Andrew Balding’s Stirring Ballad at around 9/1 in such a minefield of a contest.

Plenty of punters favour the chances of a repeat for last year’s winner Prince Of Johanne off an identical mark, but you’d have to trawl all the way back to 1947 and 1948 and Master Vote to find the last horse to win it two years on the bounce.

Drawn in stall four one I really like the look of is the returning Trade Commissioner for John Gosden.

This will only be his ninth run, and he does seem to thrive at this time of year, having won at Salisbury and Sandown inside 12 days at around this point on the calendar in 2012.

Group races weren’t quite his cup of tea later in the season, but if he returns in similar form to this time last year after a long break then he could well be a live danger to emerge from the lower section of the draw.

I’ll also be backing one drawn higher, and carrying my cash will be one of the William Haggas runners Fury.

He’s jumping from gate 22, and is another who’d be a major player if rediscovering old form.

His early season handicap form in 2012 was fantastic, with form figures of 3231 culminating in a win off 104 in the Hambleton at York.

The handicapper now has him racing off a mark four pounds lower than that from which he won on the Knavesmire, while first time blinkers could help, and it’s interesting to see Joseph O’Brien (successful on Declaration Of War yesterday) takes the mount.

Good luck!

Wednesday’s best bets at Royal Ascot:

3.45 – Prince Of Wales’s Stakes – 2 Al Kazeem (win) @ 5/2 (Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power or William Hill)

3.45 – Prince Of Wales’s Stakes – 2 Al Kazeem & 4 Maxios (reverse forecast)

4.25 – Royal Hunt Cup (H’cap) – 6 Trade Commissioner (each way) @ 14/1 (Betfred or BetVictor – both pay 5 places)

4.25 – Royal Hunt Cup (H’cap) – 10 Fury (each way) @ 16/1 (BetVictor or Paddy Power)

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Posted 4 years, 7 months ago

01 Jun

On A Derby Day High As Fabre Plans Epsom Raid…

Derby day at Epsom.

One of the truly iconic dates in the sporting calendar, and with the forecast set fair one which is sure to attract a monster crowd to the Downs, all wanting to know who will be the winner of the 2013 edition of the Investec-backed event.

Worth a stunning £782,314 to the winner – a sum which would cover even my perenially extortionate phone bill for a month or two – a field of 12 are declared to do battle under the gaze of the Channel 4 cameras.

The annual ‘will he stay, won’t he stay?’ debate has been raging out of control about the runaway Guineas winner Dawn Approach, and for racing’s sake I hope he wins and we can celebrate the arrrival of another superstar, but it’s another thing entirely suggesting we part with our cash at around 5/4 when he’s not certain to see out the trip.

Especially not with plenty of quality lining up in opposition:

Aidan O’Brien has despatched four of his best from his County Tipperary base, and in Battle Of Marengo he has a first choice option (mount of son Joseph) who comes here off the back of a win in the Derrinstown at Leopardstown, the same route used by former winners High Chaparral and Galileo, who for those who like a bit of symmetry is the sire of Battle Of Marengo.

O’Brien also has legitimate claims courtesy of Chester Vase winner Ruler Of The World – he certainly doesn’t appear to have any stamina doubts, and is also a good looking son of Galileo.

But it’s not just O’Brien who could be celebrating on Saturday afternoon…

Dante winner Libertarian caused a shock for most people at York (except for his shrewd trainer), but he strikes me as a decent bet for the St Leger in three months time (16/1 to save you looking it up).

Elsewhere in the line-up Qatar Bloodstock moved fast to secure a controlling interest in German Group 3 winner Chopin after he hacked up at Krefeld in April, and Jamie Spencer rides as retained jockey.

Trainer Andreas Wohler is breaking new ground with a first German runner in the big race, but whether he’s good enough to win is open to debate.

However, the prize could very well be heading overseas, and the one I really like is French dark horse Ocovango.

Prepared in Chantilly by master trainer Andre Fabre, this son of Monsun (a very strong stamina influence) is unbeaten and certainly won’t mind a bit of cut in the ground.

Fabre won this race two years ago with Pour Moi, who took the very same prep race on his way to Epsom as Ocovango, the Group 2 Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud.

I loved the way Ocovango dug in there, seeing off Bravodino in determined fashion, in the style of a good horse.

Ocovango worked neatly on the track at last week’s Breakfast With The Stars event, and has an up coming young pilot in the shape of Pierre-Charles Boudot.

There is a horror stat doing the rounds that says stalls one and two have a terrible record, with two wins from 164 attempts in races over a mile and a half at Epsom since the year 2000.

Ocovango is drawn in stall one, but he’s normally very fast away from the stalls and should have enough up his sleeve to work his way out of any trouble in that department.

What’s more, Secret Gesture (2nd) and Moth (4th) didn’t do too badly in Friday’s Oaks when drawn one and two respectively!

Bet Victor are 17/2, a figure which looks highly attractive each way.

Elsewhere on the card I think the layers have got it spot on in positioning Sir Michael Stoute’s speedball Duke Of Firenze towards the front of the market for the Dash at 3.15pm.

He’s got a perfect high draw in stall 19, the assistance of Ryan Moore in the saddle, and better still is drawn right next to the trailblazer Captain Dunne.

Captain Dunne was second in this race in 2009 and won it in 2011, but with his style of running he could very well become a sitting duck in the latter stages, with Duke Of Firenze hopefully well placed to pick him off.

The 15/2 available each way with BetVictor is okay.

The day kicks off at Epsom with a really exciting three-year-old handicap, a race in which I’ll be backing Ed Dunlop’s High Troja to come out on top, again in the hands of Ryan Moore.

Any horse good enough to beat Hillstar as he did in the London Gold Cup at Newbury last time is okay by me, and Moore will know all about him after having been beaten half a length on the runner up that day.

Moore also won on this guy at Leicester in April, and they can prove his 25/1 success last time out was no fluke.

Bookmakers bet365 offer a rather more conservative 5/1 this time!

Good luck!

Saturday’s best bets:

1.35 Epsom – Investec Out Of The Ordinary Handicap – 5 High Troja (win) @ 5/1 (bet365)

3.15 Epsom – Investec Specialist Bank Dash (Handicap) – 9 Duke Of Firenze (each way) @ 15/2 (BetVictor)

4.00 Epsom – Investec Derby – 11 Ocovango (each way) @ 17/2 (BetVictor)

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Posted 4 years, 7 months ago

09 May

Sizing Up An Opening On Day Two At Chester

Just one winning favourite on a really enjoyable opening day at Chester meant it was definitely bookies 1-0 punters at the close of play, but the night is young and it’s all to play for on day two.

Day one was somewhat overshadowed by news of Sir Alex Ferguson’s resignation – indeed punters without even the slightest interest in football were seen deep in discussion as to whether a potential successor would be named as Moyes, Mourinho, Klopp, Solskjaer or Frank Sidebottom.

News crews from everywhere imaginable arrived looking to get a shot of the soon to be ex-United boss enjoying a day off with his players, only to be disappointed by the 71-year old Glasweigan being declared a non-runner!

We believe he will be here tomorrow, but in the meantime we’ll try and bag a winner or two during the second instalment of this great May Festival.

I’ve got a hunch we’ve yet to see the best from Mark Johnston’s Teofilo gelding Assizes in the opening handicap (1.45pm), with bottom weight a bonus for a horse who might be about to embark on a winning spree after dropping to mark of just 84.

He’s been far from prolific to date, but equally the best of his form last summer entitles him to make a bold bid here, and if ever there was a trainer to squeeze some improvement from a frustrating horse, the brilliant M Johnston is your man.

This is his second run since being gelded, and with fitness assured if he puts it all together then the 10/1 available each way with any of bet365, Betfred, Paddy Power or William Hill looks inviting.

Just the 7 runners for the Group 3 Stella Artois Huxley Stakes at 2.15pm, but I’ll be raising a glass of the sponsor’s product if John Gosden’s Dick Doughtywylie can land a blow against some quality sorts in this extended 10 furlong event.

Dismissed as a 12/1 shot by the layers, that ignores the fact he’s already a course and distance winner and will strip fitter for his recent reappearance run at Sandown.

Doubts about a couple of his rivals (Danadana fitness, Bonfire ground) mean we could sneak him into the first two at inflated odds.

Good luck!

Thursday’s best bets at Chester:

1.45 – Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer Handicap – 11 Assizes (each way) @ 10/1 (bet365, Betfred, Paddy Power or William Hill)

2.15 – Stella Artois Huxley Stakes – 3 Dick Doughtywylie (each way) @ 12/1 (bet365 or BetVictor)

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Posted 4 years, 8 months ago

07 May

Irish Influence The Key On Opening Day At Chester

First run in 1824, the Chester Cup (2.45pm) is the focal point of Channel 4 Racing’s first of three cracking days coverage from the ever popular May Meeting at the North West track, beginning on Wednesday afternoon…

In excess of 60,000 punters will flood through the gates over the course of the May Festival, eager as ever to take in the action around the track’s unique tight turns.

The draw is considered to be of real importance in the big race – a two and a quarter mile heritage handicap with a maximum field of 17 worth £74,700 to the winner, with connections of those horses handed a low number generally expressing their pleasure, though it is worth pointing out that stalls 15 and 16 have supplied the winner in the last decade.

I’ll be wedged in among the general chaos and merriment in the betting ring, keeping my fingers crossed for a big run from Aidan O’Brien’s only runner of the day at the track, the lightly weighted Justification in the big one.

O’Brien has struck with a staggering nine of his last 20 Chester runners, a stat worth thinking about!

What’s more, this potentially well handicapped five year (rated 91) boasts a pair of Group 1 entries in the next few weeks, with his name featuring amongst the entries for both Epsom’s Coronation Cup and Royal Ascot’s Gold Cup.

If they’re to be proved anything other than entirely fanciful then a big run has to be on the cards.

A five year old son of the great Montjeu, this fella has only seen the track five times to date, but won his only race this season when scoring under Joseph O’Brien at Leopardstown last month.

Ryan Moore takes over here, on a horse who can improve again for a faster surface, especially with a cracking draw in stall three.

There’s a huge list of dangers, including Cesarewitch second and Champion Hurdle third Countrywide Flame plus last year’s winner Ile De Re, as well as Cesarewitch third Tominator and 2011 Ebor third Investissement, but Justification could have plenty up his sleeve.

He’s a 9/2 chance with Betfred and will do for me to take the prize across the Irish Sea.

Also live on Channel 4 is the listed Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks at 2.15pm, a contest which features three entries for the Epsom Oaks in three or weeks time – Gertrude Versed, Premium and The Lark.

Curragh trainer Dermot Weld sends over Olympiad for the Chester Cup, but also allows Salhooda to take her chance here.

A twice raced daughter of Nayef, she ought to love a better surface underfoot, having only run on Heavy ground to date.

Her maiden form is strong, and it’s fascinating to see her trainer has her entered in both the Irish Guineas and Oaks.

Ireland have won this race three times in the last five years, and it’s a positive that bookmakers make her their most likely winner – in a race which has gone the way of the market leader in no less than six of the past eight runnings!

At 7/2 with Paddy Power she could well boost that stat even further.

Good luck!

Wednesday’s best bets at Chester:

2.15 – Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks – 10 Salhooda (win) @ 7/2 (Paddy Power)

2.45 – Chester Cup (H’cap) – 15 Justification (win) @ 9/2 (Betfred)

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Posted 4 years, 8 months ago

03 May

‘Wood’ You Believe It? It’s Classic Time At Newmarket

Punchestown may be fresh as paint in the memory and only just disappearing in the rear view mirror, but it’s Flat all the way from here on in, with the first Classics of the season upon us this weekend – both live on Channel 4.

We kick off on Newmarket’s Rowley Mile on Saturday afternoon, thrilled by the prospect of a seven race card simply dripping with quality.

The Group 3 Pearl Bloodstock Palace House Stakes (2.35pm) is a five furlong scramble that will take a bit of navigating, but one horse who knows his way around these parts, goes on the ground, is back on song and hails from a seriously in form stable is Tangerine Trees.

In fact, Brian Smart’s lightning fast eight year old Mind Games gelding won this very race two years ago, and bounced back to something like his best when scoring at Musselburgh last time out.

Analysis of this horse’s form proves he very rarely just wins one race in isolation, with a short spurt of form tending to be the norm.

With that in mind, the 16/1 available with Coral could be just the ticket about a course and distance winner who could be about to embark on another spree!

Continuing the theme of horses who won the corresponding race in 2011 I simply can’t find anything wrong with Dandino in the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes at 3.10pm.

Now with Marco Botti, he bagged this for James Given a couple of years back (has also been with Nicky Henderson and James Fanshawe inbetween times), and posted some excellent efforts in 2012.

Dandino goes very well fresh, and won first time in both 2010 and 2011, with a narrow defeat first time out in 2012.

His favoured mile and a half on this surface will be plus, and can help him fend off John Porter first and third Universal and Noble Mission.

Finally, the first Classic of 2013 is upon us at 3.50pm, with strong cases to be made for the unbeaten Dawn Approach and Craven winner Toronado.

It’s only lack of a run since October for Dawn Approach and slight doubts about Toronado’s speed that could even register as minor question marks about the duo who have the market cornered (7/4 & 2/1 respectively), but even so there could be a hint of value a little further down the list.

Dutch Art colt Garswood was making his first appearance on the Rowley Mile 17 days ago when easily taking the listed Free Handicap over seven furlongs as the 5/2 favourite, and the way he saw out the trip that day hinted at plenty of stamina in reserve combined with a decent burst of speed.

Prolific trainer Richard Fahey isn’t a man commonly associated with Classic success, but even so it’s fascinating to see him raise his sights with a horse who won easily here last time and could improve further for the step up in trip.

Sire Dutch Art was third in this very race in 2007 on his first try at a mile, finishing just over two lengths adrift of Cockney Rebel.

A repeat display would give us a great chance of at least an each way payout, with Garswood available at 14/1 with Bet Victor.

Good luck!

Saturday’s best bets at Newmarket:

2.35 – Pearl Bloodstock Palace House Stakes – 11 Tangerine Trees (each way) @ 16/1 (Coral)

3.10 – Qatar Bloodstock Jockey Club Stakes – 2 Dandino (win) @ 9/4 (Betfred or William Hill)

3.50 – QIPCO 2000 Guineas – 5 Garswood (each way) @ 14/1 with Bet Victor

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Posted 4 years, 8 months ago

23 Apr

Pop The Corks On A Champagne ‘Double Double’ Celebration

Greetings from Punchestown!

If I live to be 150 (unlikely to make 30 so not too much danger of that) I’ll never get tired of typing that particular sentence, but even more so on the eve of what genuinely has the makings of the best Punchestown Festival ever run.

The strength in depth and equine talent due to be on display over the course of the next five days is staggering, with no less than 11 Cheltenham Festival winners due to try and achieve a brilliant Festival double.

The likes of Hurricane Fly, Solwhit, Quevega, Briar Hill, Salsify, Benefficient, Champagne Fever, Holywell, Our Conor, Back In Focus and of course day one’s star turn Sprinter Sacre are all here and gunning for a place in the record books – it could be some week!

The track looks immaculate despite the heavy rain of the last few days, with a mixture of Soft and Heavy being counteracted by the sunshine and stiff breeze when I walked it at about 6pm on Monday.

The beauty of the County Kildare track is its wide open expanse, which means they’ve got stacks of available space to open up fresh ground each day and provide the best possible conditions.

There’s also a brilliant covering of grass, and it looks like a billiard table, albeit a rather uneven one given the track’s famous undulations…

Day one throws up possibly the biggest equine celebrity of the entire week, with 188-rated chaser Sprinter Sacre here to try and bag a historic Festival treble in the Grade 1 Champion Chase at 5.30pm.

No horse has managed to win at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown since the great Istabraq back in 1999 – it requires some constitution to win at that level three times in six weeks – but this should be a formality for the undisputed star of Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows team.

(n.b. Solwhit can also achieve the treble on Thursday).

Some observers will point to Soft ground providing a possible reason to avoid him, but his record on Soft or Heavy has not even the faintest glitch in it, let alone a hole:

A win in a novices’ hurdle at Ascot on Soft in February 2011, a blitzkrieg performance in the Tingle Creek at Sandown Park last December on Soft, and then another display of total authority in the Victor Chandler Chase at Cheltenham on Heavy ground in January.

On ratings his nearest challenger should be the 11-year-old Sizing Europe, but the gap between them was 19 lengths at Cheltenham, and it’s not the bravest prediction to suggest a similar outcome.

Earlier in the day we kick off five days uninterrupted RTE coverage at 4.00pm, with an intriguing renewal of the Grade 1 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle first up at 4.20pm.

It immediately throws up a top notch Cheltenham re-match, with Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Champagne Fever up against third placed Jezki as he bids for a ‘double double’, having won the bumper at both fixtures a year ago.

Many observers have suggested this will be revenge for Jezki given the speedier nature of the Punchestown track might play more to his strengths, but that ignores the fact Champagne Fever won here at this meeting 12 months ago.

In fact, that score between the two horses this season stands at 1-1 after Jezki beat Champagne Fever in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse pre-Christmas, but for me key detail lies in the form of their respective stables…

The Willie Mullins winner producing factory continues to churn them out – six of his last 12 runners have done the business – boding very well for the chances of Champagne Fever, while team Jezki are somewhat out of sorts, with Jessie Harrington enduring a leaner spell in front of goal.

Official ratings also have Champagne Fever on top, 157-153.

We know he loves the track, and as his trainer has been quick to point out it makes sense to stick to two miles if the ground is at its softest at the start of the week.

What’s more, Cheltenham form was franked when second placed My Tent Or Yours won very easily (by 16 lengths) at Aintree, suggesting Champagne Fever can come out on top on day one at Punchestown.

It definitely isn’t just a two horse race, with Neptune second Rule The World dropping back in trip and County Hurdle winner Ted Veale reverting to novice company, but at a general 6/4 Champagne Fever can get us off to a winning start.

Good luck!

Tuesday’s best bet at Punchestown:

4.20 – Herald Champion Novice Hurdle – 2 Champagne Fever (win) @ 6/4 (Betfred, BetVictor, Paddy Power, Coral or William Hill)

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Posted 4 years, 8 months ago

04 Apr

An Oscar Winning Performance In Store At Aintree

What a card! An absolutely mouthwatering seven races await those heading to Merseyside or tuning on to watch on the box this afternoon, with the feature 2m 4f Aintree Hurdle a Grade 1 promising to grace any meeting in history, such is the depth of quality lining up at 3.05pm.

First up though is the Grade 1 Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle, a contest in which disappointing Triumph Hurdle favourite Rolling Star attempts to redeem himself in the hands of Barry Geraghty.

The layers make him favourite, while money has arrived overnight for Fred Winter winner Flaxen Flare, but the one I like missed Cheltenham and comes here purposely as a fresher horse.

Adonis winner Irish Saint has a couple of lengths to make up on Rolling Star from Cheltenham in January, but that was on Heavy ground, and he has since dotted up against the re-opposing Vasco Du Ronceray and L’Unique at Kempton Park.

A flat speed track and better ground will suit, and the 4/1 with bet365 looks a decent quote.

Last year’s renewal of the Betfred Bowl (3.05pm) went to Ireland in the shape of 50/1 outsider Follow The Plan, but it could be a shorter priced visitor from the Emerald Isle who scoops the prize in 2013.

Mouse Morris’s First Lieutenant is without a win in 16 months, but has been hammering away at the top table being placed without fail in the likes of the Hennessy, Lexus and Ryanair Chase.

That his trainer was desperate to run him in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham tells you a good deal, but this step back up in trip could do the trick.

Obviously he has the small matter of Betfair and Denman Chase winner Silviniaco Conti to try and overcome this time, but Paul Nicholls’ horse is generally odds on off the back of a fall in the Gold Cup, and at 4/1 with any of BetVictor, bet365 or William Hill there’s some value to be had in the form of First Lieutenant.

The line up for the John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle is enough to leave a National Hunt racing purist grinning like lottery winner so great is the strength in depth on offer:

Champion Hurdle third and fourth Countrywide Flame and Zarkandar plus smooth travelling faller (four out) from the same race Grandouet (stamina doubts) represent top level Cheltenham form, as does Neptune Novices’ Hurdle winner The New One.

They all hold outstanding claims, but despite Barry Geraghty hopping onto stablemate Grandouet, I cannot resist backing the horse who’s taken the last two runnings of this event in the shape of Oscar Whisky.

He flopped in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, but in fairness was never travelling and not given a hard time.

That could count massively in his favour, as could the return to ‘his’ race, a track and trip that seem to bring him alive.

A P McCoy will have come in for worse spare rides in his career, and the 7/1 available each way with bet365 or William Hill is a corking offer.

Lastly, Pires could be the answer to the 18-runner Red Rum Handicap Chase (4.15pm).

Kept back with this race in mind (has had a run on the AW to bring him on), he’s three from six over fences, and saw the form of his most recent start over fences franked when Alderwood (two lengths in front at level weights) won the Grand Annual.

Good luck!

Thursday’s best bets at Aintree:

2.00 – Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle – Irish Saint (win) @ 4/1 (bet365)

2.30 – Betfred Bowl Chase – 2 First Lieutenant (win) @ 4/1 (BetVictor, bet365 or William Hill)

3.05 – John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle – 3 Oscar Whisky (each way) @ 7/1 (bet365 or William Hill)

4.15 – Red Rum Handicap Chase – 10 Pires (each way) @ 9/1 (Coral)

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Posted 4 years, 9 months ago