Friday 29 November 2019

Saturday 30th November 2019: Jerry to Can Newbury Rivals

Given Doncaster’s postponement again (they really are having no luck), and the fact that Newcastle have to call an inspection our opportunities are a little limited this week.

While Newcastle’s card is intriguing and features the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle, it is in genuine danger due to frost and even if it gets the go-ahead at 8AM on Saturday morning, the heavy ground and freezing temperatures on Tyneside may well mean some rather unpredictable results being registered.

Newbury on the other hand is safe enough and there we have four good bets to get stuck into at the Berkshire track, beginning with a Listed mares’ race over hurdles.

12.05 Newbury (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – FLORESSA

This is not an overly competitive race perhaps, but that means we see both a positive and a negative.  True, odds are naturally a little restrictive, but it also means there is very little competition for the selection and so we still go in on this Floressa of Nicky Henderson’s operation.

Beaten last time by Silver Forever who is likely to be challenging for favouritism once again, she was denied only by a short-head and now receives a 3lb weight pull.  That weight, plus the fact that the softer going is likely to suit, means the improving four-year-old should probably to have too much for her old rival, as well as Jeremys Flame who is next on the list.

1.15 Newbury (Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase) – JERRYSBACK

There are a few interesting types at bigger prices in this race, namely Bennys King and Joueur Bresilien who should be watched as soon as the market becomes livelier before post time, but the solid percentage call is Philip Hobbs’ Jerrysback and he has my vote.

The seven-year-old was very much heading the right way last season when beginning his chasing career, beating subsequent Cheltenham winner Mulcahys Hill before running the now 160-rated Vinndication very close at Ascot in conditions similar to what he will encounter here; two runs that mark him out as a very good prospect indeed.

Things weren’t too his liking next time up at Haydock Park, though he ran well once again in second place, before the extreme distance of almost four miles was clearly not his forte at Cheltenham during the festival and so a line can be drawn firmly through that performance.

Put back to a race in which he should have no excuses now, his mark of 145 looks pretty generous all things considered and so Jerrysback is very much the one to beat with odds hopefully hitting 5/1 or more.

1.50 Newbury (Class 2 Handicap Hurdle) – DOWNTOWN GETAWAY

Nicky Henderson is to the fore once again here with this race looking like a great opportunity for his Downtown Getaway to win on his seasonal debut, as well as for the first time since defeating Champagne Well at Ascot in January which looks like good form.

Other than his failure in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree back in April, his form is rock solid so far and naturally he can only get better from this point so with conditions underfoot apparently fine for him, he would be a rightful favourite should he end up heading the market when the tapes go up on Saturday afternoon.

Of course, this horse is not without competition and so among others The Cashel Man should be respected, while at much bigger prices look out for a solid run from Nordic Combined for the David Pipe yard who should not have the rather lowly place in the market he has going into the weekend.

2.25 Newbury (Intermediate Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – EPATANTE

Another race and another strong hand this weekend for Nicky Henderson, though while his Elusive Belle is solid both in the market and on form and we could conceivably have had a fair each-way bet at nice odds on French Crusader, we can take a chance instead on Epatante who by all accounts is very well thought of.

JP McManus’ French purchase looks perfect for this race given the levels of improvement he showed early in his hurdling career, firstly when winning at Kempton last November and again when belatedly following-up easily at Exeter in February.

Although he didn’t run well in the end, Epatante did go off favourite also for the Dawn Run at the Cheltenham Festival in March and there’s little doubt that these top connections feel they have a proper horse on their hands, meaning this handicap mark of 137 looks lenient to say the least.

Away from the Henderson trio, Nick Alexander’s easy Ayr winner Elvis Mail may be no pushover in this company, but it’s Aidan Coleman’s mount who gets the nod to give Henderson (and us) a great day.

Friday 22 November 2019

Saturday 23rd November 2019: Lostintranslation Speaking Our Language at Haydock

We have a huge day in store at Ascot as the record-breaking unbeaten chaser, Altior, steps up in trip for the Christy 1965 Chase and takes on the highest rated chaser of them all in the shape of Cyrname in what promises to be one of the matches of the season.

Even in taking slight preference for Cyrname however against his odds-on rival, this cannot at all be described as a decent betting race and so it’s one we have to just enjoy for what it is – a great sporting event.

Punting is the name of the game for us though and we do have four bets this week with hopes high that they can all do the business.  We do the rounds of Ascot and Haydock over the jumps as well as Lingfield on the flat, beginning with one who looks well clear of his field.

12.05 Haydock (Newton Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – THEBANNERKINGREBEL

When rating this race, the final result looked almost too good to be true so, it probably is!  That said, even if the ratings are slightly askew Thebannerkingrebel was so far ahead that he’d have to take a backward step and the others, such as Calva D’Auge and Torn And Frayed will need to improve immeasurably for him to be caught.

Our boy was a winner twice over the summer, in fact it would have been three times but for a last flight fall, and he seems well placed to get his winter campaign off to the ideal start even if the odds are potentially compiled on the basis that summer jumpers are still seen as inferior to winter ones.

We’ll have none of that here as we only rely on the evidence, and the evidence here suggests that Thebannerkingrebel is of a higher standard than any of his rivals.

12.10 Lingfield (Fillies’ Handicap) – ITIZZIT

The opener at Lingfield is a competitive, if only mid-range all-weather fillies’ handicap on the face of it but it’s one in which the three-year-olds may well dominate and among them there is one who stands out at the weights in the shape of Hughie Morrison’s Itizzit.

Owned by Hot To Trot, who know their way around of course, this daughter of Mukhadram was definitely better on quicker ground when racing on the turf and so it’s felt that she will improve again from her encouraging run at Kempton last month now that she goes on this particular surface.

The booking of Jason Watson is rather eye-catching, in fact he was booked for just the one ride by Hughie Morrison last week when scoring on a well-backed favourite.

Furthermore, one of Itizzit’s better performances was in a nursery handicap this time last year over this course and distance so we know for sure she acts well around here, making her look thoroughly decent value at around the 7/2 mark to take care of the likes of Saikung and I’lletyouknow.

2.40 Ascot (Ascot Hurdle – Grade 2) – CALL ME LORD

Assuming he comes back fit enough to do himself justice, which I have few doubts about at all, this race represents a huge opportunity for Nicky Henderson’s Call Me Lord to get back to winning ways and take a second race at Grade 2 level.

While one or two others in the field are solid enough at the weights, namely Roksana at the bottom and If The Cap Fits up at the top, Henderson’s six-year-old gelding is just a level above for me, especially if he recovers the form that saw him demolish Lil Rockerfeller and others at Sandown in April when landing his first Grade 2 event.

Although he was poor here in the Long Walk Hurdle (Grade 1), he did go off favourite for that and is very highly thought of, while he was also market leader when finishing third in the Imperial Cup but he had a slight problem and was put away after that run rather than being risked at Cheltenham or Aintree.

He’s back now and should be at his very best this season, something that would mean it’s game over for the others in this particular contest.

3.00 Haydock (Betfair Chase – Grade 1) – LOSTINTRANSLATION

True, on reputation the big chase of the day is undoubtedly the Christy 1965 over at Ascot given that Altior and Cyrname are clashing in a gargantuan match-up, but that is a Grade 2 and this is the big Grade 1 and it could have a huge bearing on the rest of the season with the winner of this race certain to be aimed at the King George on Boxing Day as well as the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.

So far, course favourite Bristol De Mai has 4 wins from 4 runs at Haydock Park, including having won this race three times over, and we’re certainly not out to get him beaten just for the sake of it.

If he wins it’ll be some story of that there is no doubt, but his overall level of form including in this race last year when winning, shouldn’t make him such a short-priced favourite and at a slightly bigger price, especially when there is at least one very live danger and so the huge talent that is Lostintranslation can be backed to improve past him.

Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old was very good indeed when he won the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase during the Grand National meeting at Aintree in April by six lengths from Topofthegame, and that horse it musn’t be forgotten is rated 164.

Given the circumstances, i.e. a small field, lack of race fitness and very soft ground, he was equally impressive when winning on his seasonal reappearance at Carlisle when making all to easily beat Count Meribel and he really should take all the beating now.

Frodon remains a great prospect and a fan favourite of course, though whether he will be seen at his best over this sort of distance is open to question and he is passed over this time.

Friday 15 November 2019

Saturday 15th November 2019: Lily Could Be Just Magic for Punters at Lingfield

Cheltenham returns this Saturday with the all-important November Meeting taking place, but given Friday’s cancellation and the headache of very heavy ground to contend with it could simply be a glorious watching brief at Prestbury Park rather than a big betting mission.

So, while contenders are emerging for the Cheltenham Festival in March over in Gloucestershire and that’s something we all should keep a keen eye on, there may be better punting value to be had elsewhere on Saturday.

This week we have a mix of flat and National Hunt tips with both the UK and Ireland in focus, beginning at Uttoxeter with a right old slog of a handicap chase: 

1.20 Uttoxeter (Handicap Chase) – PETITE POWER

While hoping to have more success a little closer to home on the heavy ground at Cheltenham, Fergal O’Brien sends just this one horse across to Uttoxeter and a look at the ten-year-old Petite Power’s profile suggests the trip could well prove to be worthwhile for both him and us.

Despite his age he’s only run 11 times over fences and possibly hasn’t reached his peak quite yet, so that fact allied with the information that he won very well last time out (suggesting he could be well ahead of the handicapper just now), as well as the fact that some of his better form has come on very soft ground, he has an outstanding chance at the weights.

Once rated 125 and coming into this race still 5lbs short of that figure despite going up for his latest win, he can see off a field here that includies place contenders Goodnight Charlie and especially Diger Daudaie, who is probably his biggest challenger based on my ratings but who with luck should be a few lengths short when it counts.

1.25 Punchestown (Craddockstown Novice Chase – Grade 2) – MOON OVER GERMANY

There is plenty of representation here from controversial Gigginstown Stud, however their fleet aren’t necessarily fancied to take this important Grade 2 race with Henry De Bromhead’s Moon Over Germany highly thought of and prepared to go in again here.

While having the benefit of being more experienced than the rest of this field it seems, Moon Over Germany also ticks the box of being an improver while his best form to date has been on soft ground and that bodes very well indeed for this contest.

Of the others in the line-up Éclair De Beaufeu and Mount Pelier look to be the best challengers, though with the popular Rachael Blackmore on board some attention (and no little money perhaps) will be heading the way of Notebook too before the off.

2.10 Lingfield (Gillies Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – MAGIC LILY

These end of year races on the all-weather are still given somewhat of a bad reputation by punters, but the dark days of poor quality horses taking up space in such events are surely long gone and in the case of this particular Listed event, there could be at least one horse who still has Group race ambitions after the turn of the year and so it is important to keep an eye on.

The horse in question is the Group 1 placed Magic Lily for the Godolphin operation and, despite her injury and fitness problems, she can still figure at the highest level perhaps over in Dubai during the Carnival early next year with trainer Charlie Appleby very adept and winning out there for Sheikh Mohammed’s team.

Third to Laurens in the Fillies’ Mile two seasons ago when not beaten far at all, Magic Lily returned from a long old layoff when only just beaten at Listed level in France in early October, a performance only around 10lbs lower than her previous best at Newmarket.

With that run under her belt she can go on now, the daughter of New Approach promising to reach at least Group 3 level very quickly if not higher and so unless she has a distinct hate for this sort of surface, we should see a high-quality performance here.

Aidan O’Brien runs Simply Beautiful in this and we can never ignore one of his coming across the Irish Sea, the highlight of fully 13 runs this season probably being her third behind Fanny Logan.  She is solid, but we probably know her level now while there could also be strong performances from Scentasia and the overpriced and undervalued Maid For Life.

3.15 Lingfield (Golden Rose Stakes – Listed Race) – SOLDIER’S MINUTE

Lord North takes his chance again in the middle of Lingfield’s three Listed races and it would be great to see him win again as he climbs the racing ranks for John Gosden, but he is not a betting proposition at all at a best priced 4/6.

But, in the last of the Listed events over the quick six furlongs, we may see a big performance from Keith Dalgleish’s Scottish raider Soldier’s Minute and it seems he has been overlooked somewhat by the odds compilers, very much to our advantage it seems.

At prices reaching right up to 8/1 on Friday, the son of Raven’s Pass is great value having recently run easily a career best at Kempton over this trip when winning a fair handicap when well backed.

He can improve again from that performance and again has the assistance of the excellent Joe Fanning up top, and as a horse apparently getting quicker as he gets older moving from Kempton to Lingfield may well be another advantage for him leading to perhaps a new career high.

Likely market leader Gifted Master remains a solid proposition having run second over seven furlongs at this track recently, while the competitively priced three-year-old Leodis Dream of David O’Meara’s yard could also land a blow having done well to score over five furlongs across at Chelmsford recently.

Friday 8 November 2019

Saturday 9th November 2019: The Last Day to Secure the Wedge at Aintree

With the flat season finale at Doncaster called off owing to monsoon-like conditions in South Yorkshire, we really have jumped head first into the wintry murkiness of the National Hunt season.

These are the afternoons jumps fans simply love and these five punts will hopefully bring some good value to us on Saturday, beginning with a quick trip over the water to Ireland.

1.05 Naas (Poplar Square Chase – Grade 3) – DUCA DE THAIX

We have the prospect here of an odds-on favourite, or at least a short-priced one anyway, but on bare form Willie Mullins’ Cilaos Emery isn’t exactly miles ahead of this field and his low mileage, usually a good thing, is due to problems which is always a worry for a punter and a handicapper.

Ornua will challenge him at the head of the market and came into calculations as well, but the value call is Gordon Elliott and Rachael Blackmore’s Duca De Thaix.  His forecast price of 5/1 is reflective of how his season tailed off last time around, but it is not reflective of his ability.

Before he arguably went “over the top” after a long and tough campaign, he’d reached a level last season good enough to win this sort of race and he may yet get better.

1.30 Aintree (Handicap Chase) – THE LAST DAY

Potentially this is a very competitive handicap chase to be run in the mud, so jumping mistakes will need to be at a premium and stamina will come somewhat to the fore despite the two-mile trip and the flat track.

While Lillington and Solar Impulse are in with chances and Charmant looks as though he can climb the ranks a little as the season goes on, it’s Evan Williams’ seven-year-old The Last Day who appeals most after a debut chasing campaign last season that saw him take in only four races, mixing it with some good horses and eventually winning well.

We are not yet close to seeing how good this horse can be over the larger obstacles and I’d think he has improved plenty over the summer, making his handicap mark look a little generous now and this would be a good prize for Evan Williams and jockey Adam Wedge to win, so no doubt he has been prepared meticulously.

2.05 Aintree (Handicap Chase) – OLDGRANGEWOOD

Another competitive heat on the Mildmay course but again one in which we can get some decent betting value, with Dan Skelton’s Oldgrangewood potentially well-in now after a break from racing and for going down in trip to today’s two-and-a-half miles.

The eight-year-old gelding has actually reached a handicap mark of 147 over fences before, however he runs here off just 136 so having been freshened up and having had wind surgery back in September it is hoped he’s back to his best now and if so, he’ll have plenty in hand at the weights.

Both Riders Onthe Storm and Cepage have capabilities and can get involved in the contest for sure, but at prices of around 8/1 advertised on Friday the selection is very definitely worth a small punt.

2.25 Wincanton (Rising Stars Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – LE MUSEE

While recommending lowish stakes so as to not take too much of a risk, I think it might just be worth taking a bit of a punt on this Le Musee of Nigel Hawke’s yard in Devon at what is a hugely generous 10/1 at the time of writing.

While he pulled-up at Perth in September, he’s now been handed a visor to sharpen him up and it may well do the trick.  Before that run he had reached a thoroughly good level when scoring back there in the shadow of the Scone Palace on soft ground over two-and-a-half miles, something to consider carefully here.

The ground at Wincanton will take a little rain on Saturday, Le Musee is back at what looks like the right trip and he’s only rated 4lbs lower than likely short-priced favourite Reserve Tank so all in all looks overpriced.  Colin Tizzard’s horse has had to pull out the stops to reach that level, while Le Musee hasn’t been tested yet in a race of this magnitude and so it’s possible that he may just improve.

Solomon Grey and If You Say Run look to be best of the rest, but on known evidence should not be getting past the top two on this particular shortlist.

2.40 Aintree (Handicap Hurdle) – DIOMEDE DES MOTTES

The Pertemps Hurdle Series is always fascinating, always exciting and above all always competitive so there are no freebies to be gained from a betting point of view as the series goes on.

So, while on private ratings this race naturally came out pretty tight at the weights, especially between Diomede Des Mottes and Rosy World who topped the list in that order, it’s the former who just about gets the nod and he’s set to go off at a backable price.

Challenger Rosy World, a six-year-old mare, has no weight whatsoever and has put in some good performances on rain-softened ground and so she rates very highly.  The issues are that having done her best work at Plumpton over 2½ miles, we cannot guarantee that the three miles around Aintree in a hotter race can bring out the best in her and so caution is advised.

In the case of Diomede Des Mottes on the other hand, he’s won over this trip and on soft ground meaning racing conditions should not worry him, while last time out he ran a cracker to finish fourth behind Thyme Hill in a Grade 2 race and so quality is not the issue either.  He’s race fit, good value and deserves a little support.

Dan Skelton’s runner it is then, with Olly Murphy’s Skandiburg making the shortlist too although it appears he’ll need to improve a fair bit to actually overhaul our two, despite having the potential to go off as favourite come post time.

Monday 4 November 2019

Tippin’ Jimmy's Jumps Horses to Follow 2019/20

Much changes in horse racing from one week to the next, but many times punters are caught out by ditching their own notebook horses after one bad run and this is something we should look to cut out.

As such, here are 20 National Hunt horses to follow for the rest of the campaign, all of whom are expected by their yards to go on and deliver success, at least between now and the spring festivals at Cheltenham, Aintree, Ayr and beyond.

Keep these names in mind, along with what their favoured conditions are, as we look to get an early betting advantage before the season gets going in earnest.

Ask Dillon (Fergal O’Brien)

Trained by the excellent Fergal O’Brien, some of his trainer’s personality traits clearly rub off on him.  He hasn’t jumped a fence yet, but as soon as he does and over a long enough trip, we should see his true talent come out.  He remains one to watch in advance of the festival.

Birchdale (Nicky Henderson)

Sent off at just 6/1 for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival, Henderson has acknowledged since that his entry there was a mistake and that he simply didn’t stay the distance.

It’s thought now that he should be a major force over around 2½ miles and that he will yet make up into a top-class type.

Black Op (Tom George)

During an eight-race hurdling career, Tom George’s gelding reached a high level having been beaten only by Santini and Samcro en route to winning the 2018 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle.

His form tailed off, but having gone through wind surgery he returned to the track at Stratford at the end of October and simply blitzed his opposition in great style.  There’s no doubt he’s back, he will get better, and is likely to be kept at sub-three-mile trips at which he will be a major force.

Bourbon Boderline (Dan Skelton)

A look through his bare form to date wouldn’t get you too excited it has to be said, but as a full brother to the next horse on our list below, Brewin’upastorm, he is bred to be very good.

After taking a point-to-point by ten lengths he was third in a bumper at Warwick, a race he was expected to win, while this season he started off with another underwhelming performance over hurdles at Carlisle.  He’ll remain in the novice hurdle ranks and will hit his stride soon enough, so keep the faith for now.

Brewin’upastorm (Olly Murphy)

Having had a short hurdling career which culminated in a Grade 1 runner-up effort at Aintree, he’s already being sent over fences and recently battled his way to victory at Carlisle.

That was not seen as too impressive by many, but a few things went against him there yet he still scored and he’ll get a whole lot better as the season rolls on, the six-year-old being no forlorn hope for next year’s Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.

Bright Forecast (Ben Pauling)

Despite being beaten twice when put into graded company last season, this five-year-old was improving pretty rapidly from race to race, culminating with a fine third place finish in the Ballymore Novices’ at the Festival.

His profile suggests he’ll improve again for going over fences and so look out for him moving on and up the ranks as he heads for Cheltenham, perhaps in the RSA Chase.

Champagne Court (Jeremy Scott)

Still hurdling at the moment and remaining consistent if not prolific in that sphere, he looks the perfect type to go chasing at some point and especially over three miles plus, so he should remain in the notebook for now and he’ll be of significant interest if switching codes as the season goes on.

Clondaw Castle (Tom George)

Improving very nicely for the switch to fences before being pitched in a little high in the Arkle, where to be fair he was a very good fourth on the day, he was arguably over the top when filling the same finishing spot at Aintree when beaten 23 lengths in the Maghull Novices’ Chase.

Having been freshened up he can return in much better order and off a mark of 144 would be of strong interest in a two-mile handicap, though he’ll make his mark in open races anyway as the months go on.

Fakir D’oudairies (Joseph O’Brien)

I really liked this horse’s chances in the Supreme Novices last season and, as just a four-year-old, it could have experience that got him beaten there although he ran a cracker in any case.

It goes without saying that experience will bring the best out of him, but also a look at his profile suggests more of a test will do the same and so this chap will be of strong interest if being tried out at 2½ miles or even further.

Fusil Raffles (Nicky Henderson)

The form surrounding Fakir D’oudiaires will crop up several times, and it does here.  Nicky Henderson’s four-year-old is two-from-two in Britain, has missed some time on the track due to a skinned leg and yet still took care of Joseph O’Brien’s horse by 2¾ lengths at Punchestown.

He’s one that could go for the Champion Hurdle potentially, but he will be of even more interest if turning up for the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton which I believe is a strong possibility.

Imperial Alcazar (Fergal O’Brien)

It was no surprise whatsoever to see this gelding break his maiden at Aintree having been stepped up significantly in trip to 2½ miles and he can go from strength to strength now.

That distance, plus plenty of give underfoot, appear to be prerequisites now for the son of Vinnie Roe to keep getting his head in front so do keep that in mind when checking out his future entries.

McFabulous (Paul Nicholls)

Getting the obvious out of the way first; this five-year-old is a Grade 2 winner already and is trained by one of the best in the business, so he’s not exactly a dark horse.

But Paul Nicholls is very, very keen on him and there’s little doubt that as a good jumper with the right yard he will stay really well and will be targeted at something like the Supreme Novices Hurdle for which he’s a very live contender.

Montego Grey (Dan Skelton)

Fourth on debut, fifth in a hot race at Ascot and then a cosy winner at Market Rasen, it’s fair to say Montego Grey’s bumper campaign was a success but we will only see the best of him when he has obstacles to clear.

When going novice hurdling over two miles, ideally on ground not too soft underfoot, we can expect some significant improvement and we should keep in mind that he’s in the right yard and working with some very smart types, something that should bring about a further upturn in his performance level.

No Regrets (Nicky Richards)

Even allowing for the fact that he was making his first bumper start, No Regrets did not have things go his way when fourth at Ayr in April.  It’s interesting that he was sent off joint-favourite for that race though and if the money had been right, we could be talking now about a very smart prospect.

If allowed to go hurdling this term, ideally over 2½ miles, we should see some good displays and potentially at good value prices too.

Pentland Hills (Nicky Henderson)

Only a young horse, in fact one who has close form with Fakir D’oudairies who is much respected here, he could just climb the hurdling ranks very rapidly this season.

He’s so talented in fact that his chances in next year’s Champion Hurdle are not dismissed and with that in mind, should he turn up in some top two-mile races over the course of the season at value prices he should be snapped up.

Poker Play (David Pipe)

Having apparently schooled nicely before a big improvement in his form when winning his second chase at Ffos Las, his trainer is looking forward to his season and rightly so.

With a love of soft ground and probably no further than 2½ to 2¾ miles, he should win his share of novice chases and perhaps will be underestimated if going into handicap company somewhere.

Ramses De Teillee (David Pipe)

The seven-year-old has already reached a good level but has so much more left to give yet.  His trainer plans to run him in novice hurdles – he’s already won at the Showcase Meeting – before aiming him at the major staying chases, including the Grand National for which he’d be the perfect age.

He’ll need a proper test with soft or heavy ground no problem, so should any rain fall at Aintree he should be remembered regardless of what he has achieved throughout the season.

Shishkin (Nicky Henderson)

The brilliant and irrepressible Nicky Henderson could have yet another good one on his hands here.

A point winner who won his bumper very well on debut for the yard, the five-year-old will go novice hurdling now and could be one that makes the very top rank with nothing less than the Cheltenham Festival on his radar.

Sofia’s Rock (Dan Skelton)

Rated 96 on the flat for Mark Johnston, the son of Rock of Gibraltar is bound to be decent and he’s already made a good start having won two hurdles on his way to being rated 142.

He’s been dropped a couple of pounds now after his starting this campaign with an underwhelming third place at Kempton, but that was at Listed level and much is expected of him with his trainer Dan Skelton having gone on record to say he believes he will have a good year.

Windsor Avenue (Brian Ellison)

As proven by the handling of the likes of Definitly Red and Forest Bihan, Brian Ellison knows how to get the job done in National Hunt racing and his Windsor Avenue certainly looks a chaser to follow.

A 134-rated hurdler, Ellison kept Windsor Avenue local when taking him to Sedgefield for his bow over the larger obstacles and he didn’t disappoint, landing the odds by a very easy 21 lengths.  If kept over at least 2½ miles this one remains of strong interest for the rest of the season.

Friday 1 November 2019

Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd November 2019: Drink to Vino’s Classic Success

It’s a real crossover weekend, with the British jumps season getting going in earnest while on the flat there is $30million in prize money to be grabbed across two days of the Breeders’ Cup in California.

This has led to a busy betting weekend, beginning with Britain’s first all-weather Group 1 on the tapeta track at Newcastle, with stakes to be kept small and shared out as appropriate.

Friday 1st November 2019

6.00 Newcastle (Futurity Trophy Stakes – Group 1) – KAMEKO

This track makes the Futurity the test it needs to be, and while there are a few in with genuine chances we stick with the selection form Doncaster, Kameko.

Andrew Balding’s colt seems almost sure to improve for this slightly more stamina draining trial, putting him at a level akin to a typical juvenile Group 1 winner.  Spectacular debut winner Kinross could yet be anything and rates a big danger, alongside Aidan O’Brien’s first-string Mogul.  The joker in the pack is Verboten, who could have gone for the Horris Hill or even a novice race on this card.

8.12 Santa Anita (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint – Grade 1) – A’ALI

While the European team is nowhere near as strong as it could have been this year, they may yet get off to a great start with Simon Crisford’s Royal Ascot scorer A’Ali.

A three-time Group 2 winner, this colt’s form only dipped when going on heavy ground and it’s thought Frankie Dettori’s mount will love these genuinely fast conditions.  While he’s drawn wide, he is in fact only three gates wider than Kimari and one away from Four Wheel Drive, probably his main rivals and both trained by Wesley Ward.

10.12 Santa Anita (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf – Grade 1) – DAAHYEH

Another turf race and another Royal Ascot winner; Roger Varian’s filly should love it round here and while this is a very competitive race, she should have enough under the savvy William Buick to score ahead of fellow European runner Albigna of Jessie Harrington’s yard.  Sweet Melania is arguably best of the home bunch.

Saturday 2nd November 2019

2.40 Newmarket (Montrose Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – ALPEN ROSE

While she’d have a major chance anyway based on her close up third in the Group 2 May Hill Stakes, it’s hard to believe Alpen Rose won’t come on significantly again for this softer ground and so it would be no surprise to see her bounce out from her draw right up the fence and gallop them into submission.

The opposition is plentiful despite the size of the race; Run Wild, Celestial Object and Peraceful all looking capable of landing a blow at some stage.

3.15 Newmarket (James Seymore Stakes – Listed Race) – LORD NORTH

The Cambridgeshire winner, one who also went close in the Balmoral Handicap, seems to go through this ground no problem and will relish the step up to a mile-and-a-quarter.  John Gosden is absolutely not obliged to keep this horse going but clearly feels he can win again, which he can do at the expense of Air Pilot and Indeed.

8.10 Santa Anita (Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – Grade 1) – OMAHA BEACH

While he had other options at the meet and his rival, Bob Baffert’s Improbable, is bound to recapture his very best form at some point this Omaha Beach really should have too much for this field.

Richard Mandella’s three-year-old beat Game Winner in the Rebel Stakes over an extended mile, won the Arkansas Derby over nine furlongs (from Improbable) and beat improving Grade 1 sprinter Shancelot over six furlongs last time.  He’s versatile, classy, has a great record at Santa Anita and may have found the perfect trip.

9.36 Santa Anita (Breeders’ Cup Sprint – Grade 1) – SHANCELOT

A quality race, one in which we stick with the Santa Anita/Omaha Beach form.  Shancelot was beaten last time, but by what I believe to be a very high quality colt and given what he achieved in the Amsterdam Stakes in July, as devastating 12½-length win in a fast time, we know this three-year-old is top notch and there’s no way we’ve seen the best of him yet.

Favourite Mitole is arguably better over further while the impressive Imperial Hint is drawn wide and could struggle from that birth, unless he gets a lightning start.

11.40 Santa Anita (Breeders’ Cup Turf – Grade 1) – OLD PERSIAN

A race British and Irish horses traditionally do very well in, and while there’s no Enable this year the trophy could once again come back to Newmarket.

Anthony Van Dyck is shorter in the market than the selection, but he won a substandard Derby and hasn’t really gone on from that it could be argued.  Main American hope Bricks And Mortar is a proper horse but he’s done all his winning over a mile-and-a-quarter and is more comfortable there, leaving the value selection being Old Persian.

Charlie Appleby’s runner ticks so many boxes.  A dual Group/Grade 1 winner, he stays the trip well yet can handle a sharper test now (Dubawi’s tend to get quicker as they get older), he has the experience of a 16-race career under his belt and yet could still conceivably run a career best.  Big chance.

12.44 Santa Anita (Breeders’ Cup Classic – Grade 1) – VINO ROSSO

The $6million main event is wide open this year and so with no truly outstanding candidate, it’s hard to know what form line to concentrate on most.

Favourite McKinzie’s form doesn’t stack up when running around here compared with elsewhere, unless the focus is on speed and not stamina which it won’t be this time, while Yoshida is rock solid but has been beaten in his last five Grade 1 races.

The most interesting form line then is that of the duelling Vino Rosso and Code Of Honor.  The latter was a promoted second in the Kentucky Derby and won the Jockey Club Gold Cup last time, but only after Vino Rosso was controversially disqualified having passed the post first.

Vino Rosso is only just coming to himself, has just run a career best and can improve again, so given the value on offer and the fact that three-year-olds have a bad record in this event, Todd Pletcher’s colt gets the nod.