Saturday 29 December 2018

Saturday 29th December: Sharjah To Demonstrate Gulf In Class

Some interesting handicaps and a fine mares-only Listed Race (featured below) mean another excellent Saturday of racing action this week though they are served up only as an amuse-bouche before two fantastic Grade 1 races on either side of the Irish Sea.

Despite being important races in their own right, the Ryanair Hurdle and the Challow Novices’ Hurdle are eagerly awaited in order for them to provide Cheltenham Festival clues and there should be plenty of them having taken a look at the final field for both races.

At Leopardstown in particular we may well have found a way to get the short-priced favourite beaten and thus provide ourselves with some decent profit, but for now we get started at Newbury and a small but decent handicap chase:

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1.15 Newbury (Betway Chase – Class 3 Handicap) – SWIFT CRUSADOR

Plenty of money will be going the way of Cruiseaweigh before this contest after his performances at Aintree and Southwell last season appear at a glance to have made him pretty well-handicapped.

Those runs were a while ago now though and for me he could be vulnerable to this Swift Crusador following a nice win at Sandown last time out.  That reappearance win was comfortably 7lbs or more better than anything he’d achieved over fences before and the signs are that he is improving all the time, certainly at a rate higher than so far demonstrated by the likely favourite.

2.05 Doncaster (Silver Vase Mares’ Chase – Listed Race) – LADY BUTTONS

Although it’s a shame the price has been collapsing rather in the run-up to this weekend, this Lady Buttons does look a sound bet to continue her winning form and make it three from three this season.

Although her first two wins of the season were over the minimum trip, she has shown real versatility in terms of ground and is a winner over two-and-a-half miles over hurdles in the past.  She can take another step forward in this race and that should put her just about ahead of Atlanta Ablaze who’s been busy this season already but is a solid enough prospect.

As well as Atlanta Ablaze there could be challenges from Rene’s Girl and Drinks Interval who look like being next best on the list, though neither is a particularly tempting each-way price at the time of writing and so we should stick with a win bet on our mare.

2.30 Leopardstown (Ryanair Hurdle – Grade 1) – SHARJAH

A fantastic Grade 1 race and one that has appeared to revolve this week around Melon and Fighting Fifth runner-up Samcro.

The first mentioned appears to be the Willie Mullins yard’s first string and as a Cheltenham Festival runner-up not once, but twice we can accept Ruby Walsh picking him over the selection.  He ran Buveur D’Air close in the Champion Hurdle back in March but perhaps really needs that sort of test making this potentially a little sharp for him on the day.

Samcro is another who it was thought would step up in trip having been thrashed by the champion hurdler at Newcastle and while it may pay to keep him at this trip for the rest of the season, whether he is truly one of the best around at the distance is far from certain.

It may prove fruitful then to take a chance then on the good value Sharjah.  Willie Mullins’ other horse has been busy over the summer running in Flat races and so will not be many people’s idea of a potential Champion Hurdle winner, though we couldn’t fault his fitness.

That may yet prove true but what is not in doubt is how good he looked in slamming Faugheen by a very easy 7½ lengths last time out.  There’s definitely more to come from this chap over hurdles and any sort of improvement from the Morgiana Hurdle to this race may see him home in front.

3.00 Newbury (Challow Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – CHAMP

While the selection of this horse isn’t one of the most original we can hand to you, he still rates as one of the most solid bets of the day on any card and in Grade 1 company as well.

There are plenty of up-and-comers in this race including Brewin’Upastorm and Getaway Trump for example but there is little substitute for basic ability and Champ’s is not in dispute at novice level right now.

In taking a course-and-distance handicap hurdle last time out in early December Champ reached a level of 150 according to the handicapper, and whether we agree with that mark or not (though for the record we do), he also has more improvement to be coaxed out of him yet and so at that sort of level he should be beating this field with something to spare.

Having had only 6 rules races in his life we have no real idea just how good this horse is as yet and from a betting point of view that’s definitely a good thing, while there appear to be no excuses or worries on the book in terms of trip or ground so the pressure is certainly on.

Barry Geraghty can get Nicky Henderson’s runner into a good position in the race before striking a couple from home and a move like that should be decisive enough to take care of the potential live chance Alsa Mix.  Alan King’s mare has done nothing but improve in her short career though she would need to take another big step forward to win this and be able to do so on ground perhaps a little quicker than her ideal surface.

Friday 21 December 2018

Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd December: The Glancing Queen a Sweet Bet

There’s no doubt that, despite there being some good races this weekend, the best is still to come with Boxing Day almost upon us bringing the King George Chase and many other great races with the Welsh Grand National to come just a day later.

For us though right now we have to go simply with what gives us the best chance of landing a profit and so with that in mind we split our stakes over two days this week.

Friday we have National Hunt action at Ascot where there is some great value to be nabbed while over at Lingfield on Saturday a couple of mile-and-a-half handicaps provide us an opportunity to boost the Christmas betting bank a little more.

Friday 21st December

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1.55 Ascot (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – THISTLE DO NICELY

We don’t know a hell of a lot about these runners which is the nature of things in such an event, while the trainer of our horse Jamie Snowden wouldn’t be among the leading lights according to most punters and it seems that will lead to us getting a juicy price.

This 4yo is improving hand over fist right now and is likely to take another sizeable step forward in this race, something that if it transpires would leave him among if not better than the fancied horses in this line-up under Aidan Coleman and perhaps even on target to contest the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle itself at Cheltenham.

Olly Murphy’s runner Thomas Darby is another improving quickly, albeit a beaten favourite last time out at Ascot, while Encore Champs is another with a solid chance in what looks a decent race fully befitting its Grade 2 title indeed.

2.30 Ascot (Noel Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – VINNDICATION

This race has cut up to become just a four-runner event and on these pages we are confirmed fans of Lil Rockerfeller’s ability, Neil King’s 7yo who bombed out at the second fence last week but who is well enough to compete again and will once again be very well fancied.

We go with facts rather than romance however and on this occasion it seems Vinndication may be the one to be on after a pretty easy success at Carlisle meant he has a perfect record under rules with 5 wins from 5 in bumpers, hurdles and now a chase race.

Had he won somewhere other than Carlisle he could be coming in here as a long odds-on shot so his last winning venue and the presence of the popular Lil Rockerfeller could well be to our advantage in the betting market.  Count Meribel and Jerrysback make up the field and are both within a few pounds of getting involved.

3.40 Ascot (Listed Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) – THE GLANCING QUEEN

Friday is rounded off by a quality bumper and while in these races it will always pay to watch the market right up to go-time given that stables will often back inexperienced horses they know to be going well at home, at the moment we are pretty confident about the ability of Alan King’s The Glancing Queen and she is the selection.

After a point-to-point win in Ireland this horse was brought over to be trained in Wiltshire before scoring nicely in a bumper at Cheltenham.  The winning margin wasn’t much that day but it’s worth noting that the second and third led at various points which seemed to suit while this girl had to come from off the pace and nab them late on with a good turn of pace.

She should appreciate the softer going and should take a significant step forward today, perhaps leading home Tom Lacey’s Hazzaar and Eden Du Houx of David Pipe’s yard who is two from two at present and bound to be popular in the market.

Saturday 22nd December

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2.50 Lingfield (Handicap) – REDICEAN

We’re hoping Alan King can do us a favour over the jumps this weekend but he may also provide us with a Flat winner in the shape of this Redicean should he be able to follow-up his recent win at Wolverhampton with another success here over the same trip.

All three of his all-weather performances to date have been on the Tapeta but he has improved so much on each run that despite the slight change in surface, his sequence of good form may not be at an end just yet.

His varied turf form means I don’t think underfoot conditions matter to him a whole lot, in fact if anything he may well appreciate Lingfield a little more and with Martin Harley on board he can sit nicely just off the pace before putting his finishing kick to good use ahead of Seafarer and Primero.

3.25 Lingfield (Handicap) – TAUREAN DANCER

Make no mistake this is a low grade handicap and usually we’d stay away from such events, though it seems most of the money will go on a couple of runners who may well not be at their best around this track or on this surface.

The likely favourite is the hat-trick seeking Zarrar and, while he can undoubtedly go well, his form from Kempton has often dropped when going at Lingfield and so he may be overrated in the context of this race.  Ditto Andrew Balding’s Seasearch in fact so we could be left with some real value runners in this.

As much as Lady Of Authority and Konigin are on the shortlist, this Taurean Dancer looks like the smart bet under Rossa Ryan following a good effort over this course and distance when just touched off last time and he has been smartly given over a month to get over those exertions.

Look out for John Gosden’s pair in the 1.45 and 2.15 at Lingfield on this card too.  Both are obvious on the book and both therefore will be very short prices but they are rock solid and should both score – perhaps a win double could yield even more profit.

Saturday 15 December 2018

Saturday 15th December: Amadeus To Rock Them At Donny

Most eyes will be on Cheltenham today as the International meeting reaches a crescendo however some of the shrewdies will be looking elsewhere for value for money and that’s what we’re doing here.

We have a mixed bag of jumps and Flat action this week, Doncaster hosting our National Hunt tips while Newcastle’s increasingly popular all-weather track provides us with some opportunities on the level.

Backing winners and making a profit is the name of the game so while we of course will be keeping a close eye on matters down in the Cotswolds, the north is where we hope to make our financial gains:

12.55 Newcastle (2m Stayers’ Conditions Stakes) – FESTIVAL OF AGES

The solid one here on all known form is Mark Johnston’s Watersmeet though he may yet prove vulnerable to an up-and-coming stayer and so with that in mind Godolphin’s Festival Of Ages may yet prove to be a shrewd bet.

Charlie Appleby can call on James Doyle this time which is a plus, though even under Adam Kirby this lightly raced 4yo did well to reel in his opposition at Kempton last time out, looking the part in the process.

That was over only a mile-and-a-quarter but this step right up to two miles would appear to be right up his alley to me and so he’s taken to score ahead of Watersmeet and Higher Power.

2.10 Doncaster (2m Handicap Hurdle) – EQUUS AMADEUS

Tom Lacey’s runner was down the field at Cheltenham last time out but may appreciate a return to this sort of track as he looks to score for the second time in three races.

The five-year-old kept on really well to the line at Wincanton back in October and has a profile of a horse improving overall.  Previous good performances over further than this trip means he should once again run all the way to the wire and that could count for plenty today, even over the minimum trip.

Henry Brooke’s mount Irish Roe may well be the one to give him most to do on this occasion but hopefully he’ll be fighting for place money only with our boy out in front.

2.45 Doncaster (Summit Juvenile Hurdle – Grade 2) – QUEL DESTIN

As much as I like the look of Cracker Factory for the medium to long term, Alan King’s runner has been beaten a couple of times recently when in with a major chance and so despite his consistency he has his limitations.

The one to be on this time then may well be Paul Nicholls’ charge Quel Destin who comes into this race on a hat-truck, none of us yet having any real idea how good he is.

Arguably his best run on the book came back in May at Auteuil when he was trained in France and so his winning form on these shores has been achieved with fairly minimal effort. More can be expected today and we should see a much more rounded animal.

3.15 Newcastle (1m EBF Novice Stakes) – FABULIST

John Gosden is loving this surface at Newcastle and has sent the likes of Enable, Stradivarius, Emaraaty and the winner of this race last year Without Parole all to score at the track in recent times.

He may well repeat the Gosforth Park trick with Bjorn Nielsen’s Fabulist, a very well bred type by Dubawi out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. The juvenile could be set for fancy things next year and should be ready for this debut given that he’ll have been on the go in training for some time.

In what looks a decent race Rab Havlin’s mount may have expensive types Farzeen and Approach The City along with already gelded Charlie Appleby horse Enchanting Man to beat.

3.50 Newcastle (7f Handicap Stakes) – POLYBIUS

In a race that has cut up we may not get the sort of price I’d been expecting about this horse, but nonetheless Polybius remains backable for David Simcock and James Doyle.

Strictly speaking his very best form is about three years behind him now, but having shown his well being when winning at Kempton in October there is clearly life in the seven-year-old yet and his handicap mark remains not beyond him.

Three-year-old Tough Remedy will be popular in the ring having won recently at Wolverhampton to make it 2-2 on this surface, though the old boy may just have his measure.

Friday 7 December 2018

Saturday 8th December: Totter To Down Rivals In December Hurdle

Another top quality afternoon of jumps action awaits us this Saturday as both the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase and the Tingle Creek are run at Sandown while the Becher and the Many Clouds chases take place at Aintree.

Lalor looks particularly strong and may go back to clear favouritism in the Arkle market if winning the Henry VIII, though he is no sort of price leaving the race simply a watching brief for us.  The same can be said of Altior in the Tingle Creek who to be honest doesn’t look like being beaten but for a mistake, though again at around 8/11 we cannot play.

We are left with five to have a go at around the country though, albeit smaller stakes are advised this week, as Aintree, Sandown and Wolverhampton give us an opportunity to supplement our Grade 1 watching pleasure with some betting profit.

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2.05 Aintree (Many Clouds Chase – Grade 2) – DEFINITLY RED

This race has cut up terribly and that’s a real shame, though as long as he remains around the even-money mark Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red can be backed with confidence to back up his Charlie Hall Chase win last month and prove his trainer right that he is underrated and stands a real chance in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.

Having already finished sixth in a Gold Cup but is certainly capable of better; he’d been outstanding before the Festival in the Cotswold Chase when slamming his opposition.  No doubt winning what is now a small race still won’t lead to Definitly Red getting the credit he deserves but it remains another important step towards the big one in three months.

2.25 Sandown (December Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – TOTTERDOWN

Richard Phillips’ 7yo looks great value in this race having won two from three this season, improving no end when the ground went particularly soft over this course and distance last time out.

While it’s true that he’s gone up plenty in the weights, even a recreation of that latest run would put him close here at these weights never mind the fact that he should improve further so he gets the nod for rider Daniel Hiskett.

Also of good value in this race is Philip Hobbs’ I’m A Game Changer while the favourite is likely to be 4yo Apple’s Shakira, though her price looks a little skinny to me which is probably due to her trainer’s current form and reputation.

2.40 Aintree (Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle – Listed Race) – GIVING GLANCES

Although we haven’t got much to go on with these juveniles, Alan King’s Giving Glances looks potentially miles clear of these and must be backed at anything above 6/4.  She won simply effortlessly at Hereford on her hurdling debut, a win that on the book makes her favourite for this but in reality we have no idea what level she could have reached if pressed.

Some horses don’t find too much more than what they’ve already shown for pressure but she looks like one really going places and should see off Smiling Eliza and Chica Buena before going up in grade and heading for the Festival in March.

3.15 Aintree (Sefton Handicap Chase) – KILCREA VALE

Nicky Henderson is already having another wonderful term and he may well add this race to his seasonal CV as his Kilcrea Vale looks good value to go well on his reappearance.

His fourth in the Topham in April around here reads pretty well although that is not his best piece of form as wins at Ludlow and Fontwell in the past allied with his second at Ascot in January show him to be well capable in these conditions.

Jeremiah McGrath rides and may have enough under him to see of the challenge of Captain Redbeard and Crievehill and at pretty tasty odds too.

7.45 Wolverhampton (Handicap) – ATTY PERSSE

A winner at Royal Ascot last year, Atty Persse has had his problems and so his reappearance this season was delayed until July.  He was thrown straight in at a good level and ran well in third in the Old Newton Cup before running second at Ascot.

His inconsistency returned though as he ran last at Newmarket before a sixth at Kempton but I can’t help feeling that a big run is round the corner.

He’s had a wind operation and may if anything improve overall, something Godolphin will be desperately hoping for so after slipping to a mark of 100 it would be no surprise to see P J McDonald coax the son of Frankel round before pouncing on them late on.

C Note and Not So Sleepy may be the ones to give Roger Charlton’s four-year-old most to do this time though the race is pretty competitive for places.

Saturday 1 December 2018

Saturday 1st December: Samcro D’Air’s To Turn Over Favourite In Fighting Fifth

We have a fantastic afternoon of jumps action this Saturday with some of our potential Champion Hurdlers going on trial in a top renewal of the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

Samcro, Buveur D’Air and Summerville Boy face off and the winner may well jump straight to the head of the betting for the big one in March, while over at Newbury there is Listed and Graded action with a couple of tasty bets to be had at nice prices.

For good measure we even have a cheeky bet on the Flat on Wolverhampton’s evening all-weather card as an improving type looks to rack up another win, but we start with an early bet at Newbury in the mares’ race:

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12.10 Newbury (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – PASSING CALL

When you win two in a row and are trained by Nicky Henderson these days you’re bound to go off favourite and so that’s where in the market I’d expect to see Lust For Glory come race time.

She beat Posh Trish comfortably last time out but I don’t think that will be the strongest form line to follow here, instead my dough will be on this Passing Call at a much nicer price.  Alan King’s 5yo completed the hat-trick last time with a simple enough win at Newton Abbot and I don’t believe we’ve got to anything like the bottom of her just yet and she appears to be good value.

12.45 Newbury (John Francombe Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – ROCKY’S TREASURE

This is my no means the most confident bet of the weekend, but having handicapped the race I was flabbergasted at Rocky’s Treasure’s early price, coming up at anywhere between 8/1 and 12/1 as betting opened on Friday afternoon.

Bang fit having been running and winning throughout the autumn, his form for me holds up well even in the context of this Grade 2 level event and he has every chance of taking care of Le Breuil, Kilbricken Storm and likely short-priced favourite Santini of the Henderson yard.

1.00 Newcastle (The French Furze Novices’ Hurdle) - BEAKSTOWN

Brian Ellison loves a gamble and let me tell you when the money’s down, he’s not often wrong.  That is amplified when backing one of his own at his hometown track of Newcastle so look out if there is significant cash for Windsor Avenue as it may be significant however he will have to improve plenty I feel to beat the selection.

Harry Skelton is in toon to ride this one for father Dan and they will be expecting the trip to be made worthwhile.  This is only his third run under rules and after he sauntered to a maiden hurdle win last time it’s fair to say we’ll see a much better horse on Saturday and indeed one who should have too much for both Windsor Avenue and Informateur.

2.05 Newcastle (Fighting Fifth Hurdle – Grade 1) – SAMCRO

After the defection of Apple’s Jade to the Hatton’s Grace this hugely important Grade One race has come down essentially to three main candidates in the shape of last year’s winner and dual Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air for Nicky Henderson, Gordon Elliott’s Samcro and Tom George’s Summerville Boy.

Buveur D’Air is set to be a short price to follow-up last year’s win at Gosforth Park and is sitting on an 11-timer, though with nothing too much to likely be drawn from the fact he’s had a wind operation since last running it’s possible to spot both negatives and positives in him.

He’s unbeaten since the Cheltenham Festival in 2016, has proven his liking for running round here and goes well fresh.  He won this race in a canter last year but in fairness he was a 1/6 shot to do it and the only thing about coming in as the Champion Hurdler in this case is that he really had to stretch to do it and that means we know his level of ability.

Summerville Boy was also last seen winning at the Festival, this time in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and that form alone wouldn’t entitle him to get past the jolly.  He may even want a tad further as he gets older, though the stiff finish and soft ground may be in his favour in that regard.

Samcro is the one that most interests me though on the basis that, unlike the admittedly very smart Buveur D’Air, we don’t yet know quite what level he can reach.  The form he has achieved puts him not too far behind and undoubtedly there is some improvement to come.

He was second at Down Royal on his reappearance which was disappointing for connections, but that form is good so bearing in mind he was expected to do way better, will have come on for the run and was facing ground a lot faster than ideal tells me we will see a different, much better horse today.

7.45 Wolverhampton (Class 2 Handicap) – SALUTE THE SOLDIER

I would take great pleasure from seeing Original Choice winning here and we did tip him up last time (always the way!), though connections no doubt couldn’t have banked at this level on having to deal with something like our selection, Salute The Soldier.

Clive Cox’s horse has thrived since being gelded winning a handicap at Chelmsford before following up in equally cosy fashion next time at Kempton and his versatility will be tested further as he tries this surface at Wolves.

I reckon he’s well clear of the handicapper and as such should win this, though in behind the form of Original Choice is clearly among the strongest in the line-up so I wouldn’t put anyone off perhaps a reverse forecast on the two runners.