Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A New Dawn



With Cheltenham and Aintree now out of the way the focus is gradually winding up with the flat and Newmarket in the spring gives you hope of warmer weather and brighter days to come.

I commenced a new chapter in my life yesterday as I took charge of the keys to the premises which will house my new shop and consequently that will mean fewer posts over the next few months.

However I will try and concentrate on the big sprints mainly on Saturdays and where time allows maybe a few other bits.

The Grand National itself was a cracking race - however a few none racing people have said to me that the whole spectacle just doesn't seem the same. Most people grew up with the BBC coverage and their iconic camera shots of the fences coupled with the timeless commentaries of Sir Peter O'Sullivan - but you have to move with the times and Aintree has done that in creating a race that still has the drama but is not too daunting for the horses. The sell out crowd and the big tv audience shows that the Nationals charm and appeal is here for a long time yet.

My own highlighted horses didn't too badly - although Ucello Conti was the only one you could have got paid out on if you had put your bet on with Victor Chandler who paid down to sixth place.
The Aintree preview came up trumps as Andy Holding's charity bet Rule The World took centre stage meaning that the Kirkby Scout and Beaver Groups were able to benefit from that as well as the charity auction.

Onto today and there is a sort of mini festival on at Cheltenham as well as the second day of the Newmarket meeting.
The conditions were pretty soft at HQ yesterday but after a dry night things have improved to Good to Soft.
There is a very poor turnout for the 100,000 Tattersalls Millions 3yo sprint with only 5 runners and the course must be very disappointed. The best race sprint wise is the 5.40 Turf TV Handicap over 5f in which 11 go to post.
There are a few in here that I've had my eye on in the past and Brando looks to be an improver off a mark of 88 for Kevin Ryan however he has to give 5lb to recent AW scorer Equally Fast who is also lightly raced. He only went up 2lbs on the ratings for his win at Lingfield and it was a race in which he really showed his will to win. His race fitness advantage and likely further improvement could give him the edge over Brando although he would prefer the going to dry up a bit more An outsider could be Soie D'Leau who gets the assistance of Sylvester De Sousa but today I'm going to go with Equally Fast in the hope that the going by 5.40 will be a bit faster and they don't have any showers.

Bets
Equally Fast - 1 point win @ 6/1 with William Hill (11/2 with Paddy Power and Bet Victor and 5/1 elsewhere)

Friday, 8 April 2016

Aintree - The Grand National



The big one is here !!

Lets get straight down to business and concentrate on the main event which starts at 5.15pm on Saturday.

Run over 4m 2f 72y this is still a test of stamina and jumping ability despite all of the changes - which mostly have been for the better as we all have the horses welfare at heart.
Forty horses all tuned to the minute in the classiest National we have ever witnessed to date - its going to take a supreme horse to win this.

I am not going to go through every contender in the race but I will just concentrate on trying to push you in the right direction as I see it. You of course will no doubt have formed your own views throughout this season and maybe even last.
The bookmakers would have you believe that there is 92 points between the fav and those at the bottom on betting points but there is in reality only 20lb between them on weights and you could make a case for any of the runners winning the race.
One thing I have noticed is the amount of headgear being worn in the race - and by that I mean blinkers, cheek pieces or hood and 21 of the 40 runners wears one of those apparatus. A few horses have won with blinkers in the past but I would consider this a negative as it usually means the horse has some sort of quirk and not straight forward.

Last years winner Many Clouds does go there with every chance again but apart from Red Rum most horses return to Aintree a little bit apprehensive about taking on the task again and I am usually keen on siding with horses that are running in the race for the first time.
Unfortunately one of my fancies just missed out and that was Knock House and he now runs in one of the other races.
Ucello Conti is probably my main fancy as he looks to have been laid out for this by Gordon Elliott. Cause Of Causes was also entered for the stable but I don't believe this was his main target as he won at Cheltenham. So Ucello Conti is the stables main contender in my view and he has some very good placed form in top Irish handicaps this season. He is a half brother to Silviniaco Conti but carries a stone less and Silviniaco Conti is considered to be well in at the weights on his recent form so you could say that Ucello Conti has plenty of room for improvement on his rating as he's only gone up 7lb in his 3 runs for the stable. He handles going on the softer side and you would hope that he would stay well. He has a change of Jockey for this in Daryl Jacob who won on Neptune Collonges and he should bring a lot more to the table than his recent rider Jacques Ricou.
Plenty of people have written off Home Farm but he was a real fancy of mine a couple of years ago but didn't get into the race. He finished 5th behind Cause Of Causes in the 2013 Paddy Power Chase having finished 3rd in the Irish National off 10-3 which was the form which drew me to him. He runs off 10-4 tomorrow and he will think he is running loose and I hope he can outrun his odds of 100/1.
Morning Assembly ran a good race at Cheltenham and he's the sort of horse who will travel well which is a big part of the outcome of this race. He's lightly raced this season and has the wise Paddy Brennan in the saddle.
Vieux Lion Rouge is another that ran well at Cheltenham in the amateur riders National Hunt Chase and the stable have booked James Reveley which is a positive sign - but he's one of the runners that wears cheek pieces.
Ballycasey also ran with credit at Cheltenham over a trip short of his best and that will have been a good warm up for this and Katie Walsh should get a good ride round on this one. The horse fell early on last season so shouldn't have too many bad memories of the place.
Black Thunder has been on my radar all season but things haven't quite gone to plan. I think he could run a big race now that the Waley Cohen's have purchased him as he gets the assistance of possibly the best jockey in terms of placings at this course in Sam Waley Cohen who is worth several pounds round here.
There are plenty of others in with big chances but I'm not mentioning them all and if you have a strong view on something I wouldn't put you off backing it - its a very close race but one you should savour because as I said at the beginning its the best we have seen to date.

Looking at the other races :
1.45 - If there's any justice in this horse racing world then If In Doubt will gain compensation for his very unlucky run at Cheltenham with Long House Hall running him close.
The next three races are all small fields so I will give those a miss as prices will be short.
4.20 - I've already said above that I was disappointed that Knock House didn't get in the National but hopefully he can get some luck here. He ran an eye catching race in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham and only the winner Cause Of Causes was going better but Knock House was given plenty to do by Nina Carberry before running on to finish 4th and she will need to be quite a bit closer to the action tomorrow.
6.10 - Bigmartre could make it a great meeting for Harry Whittington who was positive at the preview evening about his chances in this. They won't be vying for the lead this time and will be dropped in by his jockey.

Bets 
Grand National - My 4 against the field
Ucello Conti 1 point ew @ 25/1 with several bookmakers
Home Farm 0.25 points ew @ 100/1 with several bookmakers
Morning Assembly 0.50 points ew @ 25/1 with several bookmakers
Black Thunder 0.25 points ew @ 80/1 with Paddy Power - 66/1 elsewhere

Other races
Knock House - 1 point win @ 9/1 Paddy Power and Betvictor
Bigmartre 0.50 points ew @ 14/1 Bet365 and Betvictor

Aintree - Day 2



Well I had a great day at Aintree yesterday despite the weather and the races went pretty much according to my idea of what would happen.

Onto today and hopefully it will be more of the same:

1.40 - A huge field lines up for this hurdle and there will be plenty of traffic problems around the tight Mildmay track.
Warren Greatrex was keen on Ma Dou Fou at the preview evening - he thinks he's on a good handicap mark, he missed Cheltenham and  the distance and flat track will be ideal. 
Starchitect ran a slightly odd race at the festival in the County Hurdle as he lost his place coming down the hill but then ran on again up the straight and was only a neck off third place at the line. He's joint top rated on RPR ratings and I think he has a few more pounds in him on this flat track over further and he's been running well in all the right events.
Sky Khan ran in the Martin Pipe at the festival and finished behind Ibis Du Rheu but could be considered slightly unlucky there and he's now 3lb better off with the winner and he likes a fast run race which he will get here.
Peter Bowen has had some good winners down the years at this track and it looks as though he's laid out Curios Carlos for the race on his handicap debut.

2.15 - This should go the way of the top rated fav Limini who is another mare that Mullins uses to great effect with the 7lb allowance.

2.50 - Plenty of eliminations from this at the overnight stage but it is a fascinating race. Luckily I took 33/1 about Henri Parry Morgan yesterday morning. He's another Bowen horse that looks to be a big improver and he could go well here. He's at the top of the betting for the Bet365 Gold Cup but tests his metal against Grade 1 opposition here.
Out Sam is one that could go a lot better here than at Cheltenham. Warren Greatrex thinks he has improved a fair bit since his run at the festival. He will like the flat track and the going and he should run a big race.
Un Temps Pour Tout ran a mighty race at the festival when winning the Ultima Handicap Chase and there should be plenty of improvement to come - but he may have been tuned to the minute at the festival and can he do it again is questionable but he is top rated and has the potential to win a Gold Cup in time.
The track may be a bit sharp for Native River but he went to the festival with plenty of confidence and didn't disappoint his connections when 2nd in the National Hunt Chase over 4m.
Blaklion and Ballyalton both won at the festival too - this is high grade stuff today and the winner should go on to great things.

3.25 - I don't think anyone can look beyond Vautour to win this as he long as he negotiates all the obstacles which have proved a thorn in the side of some previous champions.

4.05 - The Topham Trophy will be a fantastic spectacle to watch over the big fences with 30 runners lining up. I would have loved for Mr Moonshine to have run in this race a couple of years ago and I actually put him up as a strong fancy for the race after he was third in the Becher Chase in 2013 but connections chose to run him in the Grand National instead and he finished 15th. He's dropped 12lb since then and he is a fantastic jumper of a fence and should give you a real thrill for your money - could be his swansong if he wins but still a big ew chance under Danny Cook.
Minella Reception is clear top rated on RPR ratings and commands plenty of respect for the Twiston Davies team and hopefully he will take to the course and produce a clear round of jumping.
Of the others Paul Nicholls is sweet on the chances of As De Mee and Fairy Rath who was second in the race last year off the same mark also has the tongue strap reapplied.

4.40 - This looks a difficult puzzle to solve but Baoulet Delaroque should improve for the step up in distance and Yala Enki, joint top rated, should go well at a big ew price.

5.15 - Plenty of money about for Bolving in the last with Victor Dartnal saying he has improved for his single run which he couldn't have won any better.

All in all a great days racing ahead.

Bets
Mr Moonshine 0.50 points ew @ 22/1 with Bet365 and Paddy Power
Sky Khan 0.50 points ew @ 25/1 generally
Bolving 0.50 points ew at 12/1 generally

Good Luck !

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Aintree - Day One



Good Morning!!

I will try and be as concise as possible today as I'm off to the course about 11.00am. There has been a good bit of rain overnight and it will more than likely ride soft on Day One. There's some dry weather later so it will dry up as we go through the day but it's nothing like Cheltenham going.

Last night was a great evening at the preview and Warren Greatrex is a very funny guy.

Harry Whittington was keen on Arzal(1st) as you might expect in the first. He missed Cheltenham so comes here a fresh horse but Garde Le Victoire, Sizing John and Rock The World will all make life difficult.

Apples Jade(1st) and Footpad should give Ivanovich Gorbatov more to do in the 2.15 on this going and Paul Nicholls has Diego Du Charmil and Romain De Senam but not sure how those two will act on the softer going. I would have been keen on the latter if the going had been a bit faster but Nicholls had 5 4yo's in the Triumph and he couldn't win that so I can't see him winning this.

Cue Card(1st) in the 2.50 Betfred Bowl likes a bit of cut so may go even better than at Cheltenham but he took a mother and father of a fall there and it will have left its mark both physically and mentally. Don Poli may be the one to benefit with the going being softer than at Cheltenham and Brian Cooper may be able to get him more competitive on a track at which he beat Many Clouds. Beyond the top three in the market its difficult to be convinced about any of the others causing an upset.

Annie Power(1st) should have conditions right up her street and for me its money in the bank for Mullins/Walsh combo - the only negative would be that Mullins doesn't have a great record at the track and with the gap between the two meetings being only 3 weeks and the fact that his horses have all had to travel over twice they may not be able to perform on the big stage for a second time.

The Foxhunters and the following handicap could be the races to get your value - I've already backed Major Malarkey at 25/1 in the hope that he can get off with the others, take up the lead and then build up a big gap that nobody else can catch - he was several lengths up in the Cheltenham Foxhunters at this distance so its a possibility if his jockey can hold it all together. On The Fringe(1st) though will not mind the going and he won in a canter here last season so he must be there or thereabouts again as will Nicholls Pacha Du Polder who won't be ridden like a non trier this time with Will Biddick in the saddle.

The Red Rum Handicap Chase is very open there are several horses with chances and even last years winner Surf And Turf could cause another upset on a going day. I was pretty keen on Dandridge(2nd) as he did incredibly well to finish second to Solar Impulse having made a bad blunder at the first fence at the festival. There are words about for the likes of Fayette County, Pearls Legend and Minella Present but the latter hasn't run for 146 days and that doesn't usually help in championship events.

The bumper looked to be a walk over for La Bague Au Roi according to the pundits during the week but Warren Greatrex was pretty worried last night about there being too much rain - but he has a good line to the form through his other unbeaten bumper horse The Nipper and he was very keen on his horse otherwise.
Augusta Kate(2nd) will like this going so will be a difficult opponent and Theatre Territory and Little Miss Poet could make up the frame.

Good Luck



Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Aintree getting closer !



Some great racing on tomorrow at Aintree with four Grade 1 races to start the meeting, then the Foxhunters, followed by a Grade 3 handicap chase and then a top class Mares Bumper to finish the card.

There is a lot of Cheltenham form about over the three days and with Mullins and Nicholls going head to head in the trainers championship it promises to throw up some cracking contests.

I wont't put up my final selections until in the morning as I'm off to a preview evening tonight so I will be able to provide any late information coming from that.

Provisionally though I like the look of Sizing John, Footpad, Cue Card, Annie Power, Major Malarkey(ew), Dandridge and Le Bague Au Roi. Nothing too controversial there but sometimes that is the way it is and as we all know what you pick doesn't change the result.

However I will give my race previews in more detail in the morning and my initial thoughts may change.

Aintree - Grand National



It's shaping up to be the best Grand National we have ever witnessed and the bottom rated looks like being 145 which is quite something.
I say that because we don't have to go too far back to 2007 when Silver Birch won to find that the first 5 home that day wouldn't have made this years line up - but neither would other past winners such as Auroras Encore, Comply Or Die or Numbersixvalverde !
Trainers will just have to face facts the race is getting classier and if you definitely want to be in it next year then you need to get a rating over 145 to qualify, that of course will mean running your horses in some races and showing some form - heaven forbid!
I am not in the camp of letting past winners run because they've failed to qualify like all the other horses. I don't mind the idea of restricting an owner to no more than 3 runners but that would only have affected J. P. McManus this year in any event as he has 4 in the top 40.
I've got a number of selections lined up for the next few days following my own in depth review of the Cheltenham handicaps and I'm really looking forward to my local meeting and I will be attending on the first day. Before that though I have the preview evening tonight in Aintree with Warren Greatrex and Harry Whittington present which should be good and I will give a short review of that in the morning.
On another note Channel 4 don't look like pulling out all the stops for their last National as they don't look like even starting race coverage until after the first race has finished - a poor show indeed if this is correct. I hope ITV can rectify this error of judgement next season.

I will do another post this afternoon when I know the declared runners for tomorrow and also what the final 40 is for the big one !


Friday, 1 April 2016

The Lincoln Meeting



The turf season gets under way good and proper at Doncaster on Saturday with The Lincoln, Spring Mile, Brocklesby and Cammidge Trophy. The going is currently soft, good to soft in places and there is rain in the area so it may stay that way or get even softer.

The Cammidge Trophy is not a race I've had much luck in over the years and 14 runners line up for the 6f Listed race.

There was a strong wind blowing up the track last year and it paid to be held up with some cover and that suited Naadirr. None of the first three home then are back for another attempt and Jack Dexter who finished 4th is the only one of that field to have another go and he's in it for the fourth year running.

Alben Star has the most recent form having won on the all weather last weekend and this may be a race too soon for him and he's up against horses with Group race form so may struggle.

The lightly raced Gamesome is open to improvement but that's more likely to be in a handicap.

Marrek, although 9, is a decent horse when its soft and if he's tuned up enough then he should go very close to winning and he's worth a point ew at 6/1. He just failed to catch Sole Power on yielding going in the Group 2 Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh in September and he doesn't meet anything of his calibre here and he has plenty of winning form over 6f.

Suedois could be the fly in the ointment as he is another horse that David O'Meara has mopped up from France but hopefully Maarek can master him and Jack Dexter should be booked for another placed effort.

Good Luck !