Friday, 31 January 2020

Saturday 1st February 2020: Greatrex Runner Worth a Few Bob in Edinburgh National

It’s the start of the Dublin Racing Festival on Saturday and we have three big bets from there, though the best value of the day lies in the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh.  Here’s our five to follow for the day: 

12.50 Leopardstown (Novice Hurdle – Grade 1) – FURY ROAD

This 2m6f novice hurdle will take some getting, but in Fury Road we have a classy type who has seen out almost three miles on heavy going and at just six years old is improving still.

Fury Road is three from three now and we’re not at the bottom of him yet, so he is taken to confirm his superiority for trainer Gordon Elliott ahead of Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition and Elixir D’ainay for the powerful JP McManus/Willie Mullins combination.

1.25 Leopardstown (Dublin Chase – Grade 1) – CHACUN POUR SOI

He may not be allowed to go off at the biggest price you’ll ever see but Willie Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi, given his future rival’s penchant for an extra furlong and/or heavier ground, could be the one to take Defi Du Seuil on with in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham and so his class is not disputed.

Another contributory factor in having the confidence to back him is that Min still possesses tons of ability and is not ruled out here, though he is very much seen as the owner and trainer’s second-string in the race behind our chap.

Runaway Cheltenham Festival winner A Plus Tard rates pretty highly too, but he’ll need to improve a fair it to get to Paul Townend’s mount.

2.00 Leopardstown (Arkle Novice Chase – Grade 1) – FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES

Joseph O’Brien’s young chaser Fakir D’Oudairies is two from three now over fences in Ireland and, although he was beaten by today’s chief rival Notebook last time out, the thought is that he is so young he can basically only get better and may yet prove to be an Arkle type in March.

He can take a big enough step forward this time, if not allowing his rival the same rope as in the Racing Post Novice Chase, to bridge a length-and-a-half gap and a 2lb pull making him the choice.  Bapaume is best of the rest.

2.45 Wetherby (Towton Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – DOMINATEUR

This is a smashing race and I hope it doesn’t get lost in the furore of the racing at Leopardstown.  As a Grade 2 novices’ race it is important for the future, but as for the now it seems Dominateur can live up to his name and remain in command of events here.

His last two wins at Chepstow have shown him to be going very much the right way and he can score once more ahead of Boldmere and Ardlethen.

3.15 Musselburgh (Edinburgh National Handicap Chase) – BOB MAHLER

There are almost too many of them to keep track of during the National Hunt season but, despite them being only around 3/1 the field overnight, this race looks as competitive as a ‘National’ should be and the race could be a cracker.

Despite this, there is one in the field that just stands out a little to me and that is Bob Mahler.  An eight-year-old arguably just about to reach his peak, he beat today’s hot favourite Little Bruce easily at Cheltenham in the spring and has been placed twice this season in handicaps at Haydock and Doncaster.

His form is sound, but now that he goes right up to beyond four miles we should really see the best of him, something that should be enough to make Adrian Heskin and Warren Greatrex’s trip up worth the miles.

As for the remainder, it would be no shock to see Arthur’s Gift run very well and into the places perhaps, while in a competitive heat the likes of Sumkindofking, Brian Boranha and the aforementioned Little Bruce all look very close at the weights and could all get involved at some stage.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Saturday 25th January 2020: Champagne to Go Well at Donny

It’s Cheltenham Trials Day in the Cotswolds but as usual in pre-festival meetings at Prestbury Park, we’re happy enough to watch the great action unfold with a view to marking our card for March.

Betting-wise there are value bets elsewhere though, beginning with Lingfield on the flat.

1.10 Lingfield (Handicap) – PIRATE KING

A decent Class 3 handicap over a mile-and-a-half, one that could well go to Charlie Fellowes and his Pirate King after a very nice win over Battle Of Marathon here a month ago, a horse who has proven to be a good yardstick when assessing the various form lines in this event.

As a horse who has just turned five we can assume there’s a little bit more to come from this horse, one whose profile shows him to be very happy over this distance as it appears to be his absolute optimum, while it was also interesting to note that Kieran Shoemark is at Lingfield only for this mount before he heads to Kempton.  Ralph Beckett’s former Aidan O’Brien horse Cliffs Of Donneen looks to be best of the rest.

2.05 Doncaster (River Don Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – CHAMPAGNE WELL

Course and distance winner Boss Man Fred will no doubt be very popular, his win at the back end of December reading well and entitling him to a step up to graded company, especially given that he took that race with a fair amount in hand.

Up in this sphere though, even with further improvement expected from Dan Skelton’s charge, he may well just fall short for my money and it could well be that his impressive unbeaten run is about to come to an end.

Enter Fergal O’Brien’s Champagne Well.  The Cheltenham-based trainer had an option for this horse at home on Trials Day today back over 2½ miles, but it makes sense to come here instead.

Winning first time up for the campaign over 2m5f at Cheltenham, he stepped up from that when running over the same course and distance in place behind Thyme Hill at this level and that form alone would have entitled him to go very close in this contest.

He was upped to three miles in December, finishing a close second to Redford Road showing no real improvement but over this easier track another step forward is predicted which should most likely make him the one to be on.

Ramses De Teillee is back over hurdles now and should go OK for David Pipe and Tom Scudamore, but Paddy Brennan’s mount is probably the class act in this line-up right now and should prove it at what look to be reasonably attractive overnight odds.

2.40 Doncaster (Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – FLORESSA

This is a race that for many will revolve around last year’s winner Lady Buttons, an admirable ten-year-old mare who comes into this race on the back of yet another win, the 14th of her career.

That success was over fences while back over hurdles you can’t help but feel she’d need more of a test to be at her best, be it softer ground or a longer trip.

At this stage of her career it’s hard to see her being any better than twelve months ago, something that in giving away weight to Floressa could mean heartbreak for her many supporters.

Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old mare is a real improver, as she should be at this age, flying up through the ranks with two wins and a second in three hurdle starts so far.  Her latest win at Newbury in Listed company reads well and with the prospect of plenty more to come from her, she should have enough to take of Philip Kirby’s local favourite.

The one to watch from an each-way perspective, even in a 6-runner field, is Kelly Morgan’s Timetochill who at around 12/1 overnight has been grossly underestimated.

Her two wins on the bounce in November will have taught her plenty and she is a fresh horse now having been off for a couple of months, so don’t be surprised off her racing weight if she puts it right up to the main pair.

9.49 Gulfstream Park (Pegasus World Cup Turf – Grade 1) – WITHOUT PAROLE

The former John Gosden-trained Without Parole, a St James’s Palace Stakes winner in 2018 at Royal Ascot, came back from a six-moth lay-off to run on extremely well at the death in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November to eventually finish third, so now he’s back to full fitness and with this 1m1½f trip looking ideal he could be tough to beat under Frankie Dettori for master trainer Chad Brown.

Without Parole is arguably a forgotten horse but has genuine Group/Grade 1 pedigree, while both Hollywood Derby winner Mo Forza and Aidan O’Brien’s admiral Group 1 winner and last year’s runner-up Magic Wand are solid alternatives although their wide gates could negate their challenge somewhat which makes me more confident about the selection.

10.34 Gulfstream Park (Pegasus World Cup – Grade 1) – MUCHO GUSTO

Having already lost the majority of its purse, being a $3million dollar race instead of a $16million one, the fourth Pegasus has now cut up massively.

Firstly, crack dirt horses McKinzie and Maximum Security have given this a swerve to head instead for the Saudi Cup, while overnight on Thursday the race lost the top two in the market in the shape of Omaha Beach and Spun To Run with a suspected fracture and a skin rash respectively.

In their absence the solid one is Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto.  Underestimated to a degree, the four-year-old beat Roadster and finished second to Maximum Security last year which reads very well, while he faded late having run well in the Travers Stakes making this 9-furlong trip look ideal.

Favourite may well be Higher Power, but he was flattered by his wide-margin Pacific Classic win and his other form doesn’t match up, perhaps leaving Tax as the value alternative to the selection from a good inside gate.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Saturday 18th January 2020: Darasso Just the J O’B in Champion Hurdle Trial

This Saturday sees the important Grade One Clarence House Chase take place, a race in which Defi Du Seuil can make use of the extra stamina requirement that the 2m1f trip and heavy ground around Ascot will bring, despite his tendency to idle, but at odds-on he’s not really a reliable betting proposition.

The bad ground has scuppered a few plans to be truthful, but despite that we still have one bet from there along with the best picks from Haydock, Lingfield and Taunton.

1.00 Lingfield (Handicap) – CREATIONIST

We begin on the flat and this interesting mile-and-a-half Class 2 handicap.  The best race to use as a form guide is the race recently contested by Original Choice and Furzig over the course and distance in late January, one in which the latter came with a good run to beat the former under hands and heels by a neck.

It’s once again very difficult to separate those to at the new weights and they should both show up well, but all things considered the one to be on at the prices is Roger Charlton’s four-year-old likely improver Creationist.

Finishing his three-year-old season with a decent runner-up effort over 1m3f at Kempton, he was sent too far over 1m6f at Chelmsford before going right back to a mile-and-a-quarter around here in January and while he has acquitted himself well each time, only today does he go over his best distance.

He can find a few pounds more than the others to prove to be the best handicapped horse in the race under jockey Adam McNamara.

2.10 Lingfield (Handicap) – ELECTRIC LADYLAND

It goes without saying that on this surface genuine pace counts for a hell of a lot and that’s one thing among other talents that selection Electric Ladyland possesses.

Trained by Archie Watson, this filly hasn’t been beyond five furlongs yet but she certainly runs as though the trip is within her compass.  Having had a busy season, she finished off the year by running second in a novice stakes at Wolverhampton where the surface wasn’t ideal before scooting home to land a similar event at Chelmsford in September.

She goes well fresh as her debut win will attest to, can bounce out and run them ragged if settling OK and appears well-in given that her mark of 88 doesn’t look to be her true level on this, her belated handicap debut.

There’s little to choose in behind between the likes of Little Brown Trout, Zulu Zander and Taste The Nectar but if all goes well they’ll be running for place money anyway.

2.50 Taunton (Portman Cup Chase) – VALTOR 

Although five-year-olds and over are allowed to enter into this intriguing £50,000 chase, this year it really does have a rather Dad’s Army feel about it with all the main contenders aged ten or older.

While in theory we should see a big run from the 150-rated Rock The Kasbah, Philip Hobbs’ gelding who retains his ability having run a close second to Cogry last time at Cheltenham, a browse through his form shows that given the effort needed for a run like that he doesn’t always put in two in a row and with age now not on his side, he may well flounder.

It probably comes down to Paul Nicholls’ Yala Enki and Nicky Henderson’s Valtor.  The former ran third in the Welsh Grand National for the second year in a row which is form that entitles him to win this race, but perhaps not surprisingly he was not as good after that effort last year and the same thing may happen now.

Valtor came to this country from France with a big reputation and lived up to it with a taking success in the Silver Cup at Ascot just over a year ago and, though he hasn’t hit those heights since, his time will come despite him now being 11.

He’s won over hurdles this season and only needs to be within a few pounds of where he was that day at Ascot to potentially win this, so given he’s a bigger price than Yala Enki he’s worth a few quid.

3.00 Ascot (Handicap Chase) – SAM’S ADVENTURE

Domaine De L’Isle has won his last two and should go well once again, though it appeared that he relished the three-mile trip at Newcastle and may want a little further than this 2m5f today.

Venetia Williams’ Espoir De Guye is a fair favourite after himself winning two on the bounce now including on heavy ground, but at the odds the most interesting contender is Brian Ellison’s Sam’s Adventure and he gets the nod.

Second behind Domaine De L’Isle last time at Newcastle, it seems that trip hasn’t been helping him with today’s distance much more suitable and he also has an 8lb pull from that contest.

It’s interesting to note too that Ellison, who has a busy day at Haydock, has sent only this horse all the way to Berkshire so given that he’s one with an improving profile overall and who could arguably be better at this trip, his price is simply too large.

3.15 Haydock (Champion Hurdle Trial – Grade 2) – DARASSO

Time will tell whether or not this race can be genuinely seen as a true Champion Hurdle trial, but one thing’s for sure there is an overpriced runner in it this year in the shape of Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso.

Going over fences when last seen the best part of a year ago, Darasso had already managed to reach a mark in the mid-150’s over hurdles before trying that route and so we know he has class and should be a better horse now as a seven-year-old with 13 races under his belt.

If he runs to the level his profile suggests then he should be too good here for Fighting Fifth winner Cornerstone Lad, Ballyandy and the frankly overrated (at these odds) Pentland Hills.

In terms of how confident we can second guess connections to be; O’Brien will have had plenty of options for him in Ireland while owner JP McManus does not need to spend the money to bring a horse over to attempt to win a prize, he has plenty in England at his disposal so a big run looks to be on the cards.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Saturday 11th Janurary 2020: Kim to Provide Our Weekend Candy

While the quality isn’t quite there for us this weekend to the degree that I’d like it, there are enough races floating about for us to be able to take advantage and the four below should all give us a good run for our money at the very least.

Look out for the results of the various graded races in England and Ireland in terms of grabbing some Cheltenham clues, but where the shorter term is concerned it’s about attempting to make some profit and with that in mind, these are the horses to concentrate on: 

2.05 Kempton (Silviniaco Conti Chase – Grade 2) – FRODON

It’s bitterly disappointing that Altior doesn’t run in this race and the way that his defection was handled this week has left a rather bitter taste in the mouth.

There’s no doubt the great Nicky Henderson remains a top trainer and a gentleman, but the fact that it appears some large bets were placed on Top Notch (also his) and that the bookmakers knew Altior wasn’t running before the press and the punters did, doesn’t sit well with many people including me.

Henderson chose to use his bookmaker-sponsored blog to give reasons for Altior not running but not before many had apparently backed Top Notch at big prices, making his look great value now that he’s odds-on for the race.

As it happens, while Top Notch looks difficult to beat strictly on current form, there’s enough evidence to suggest that Ryanair Chase hero Frodon simply hasn’t had things his own way this season and is overdue a win now.

He should be allowed to bowl along in front and now that he’s back in conditions he will appreciate – it was too soft at Aintree and three miles was too far at Haydock – he will be a very tough horse to pass under regular jockey Bryony Frost.

None of the others really seem to possess the quality to get involved unless there are mistakes, meaning that even at 2/1 Frodon looks good value with the race being run to suit and with just one arguably slightly inferior rival left to beat.

3.00 Warwick (Grade 3 Handicap Chase) – KIMBERLITE CANDY

There’s a big win in this Kimberlite Candy and after the eight-year-old gelding’s recent run at Aintree, there is no reason to suggest it shouldn’t be this weekend in this valuable Grade 3 chase.

Having run a fine third in a big race at Sandown over three miles last February before being well backed for the Becher Chase last month, big things were expected at Liverpool and Tom Lacey’s charge very nearly delivered.

Although back-to-back winner Walk In The Mill ultimately took the crown, he was well clear at the elbow before Kimberlite Candy began to stay on late in the day over that 3m2f trip and with that experience under his belt and a further three furlongs to come here today, it seems we could see a chasing career best now from Richie McLernon’s mount.

His main form and market rival is The Conditional who is bound to be popular in the ring, but while his form is rock solid I can’t help thinking that his three runs this season could have just taken the edge off him.

Having opened the campaign with a third place in a novice race, The Conditional ran a stormer to beat West Approach up the hill at Cheltenham in October.  In late November, David Bridgwater’s horse put in another almighty effort in a battle with De Rasher Counter at Newbury in the Ladbrokes Trophy in which he finished second, but he’s up another 5lbs now and will need to be a monster to win this race.

Ben Pauling’s Le Breuil is essentially on trial here for the Grand National and should run well without winning, as should Ludlow runner-up Bobo Mac.

3.15 Kempton (Handicap Chase) – ON THE BLIND SIDE

After being well backed and probably running his race when second in the Graduation Chase at Ascot in December, the time could finally be just right now for Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side in handicap company.

While he’s been doing OK over shorter trips and on softer ground, this eight-year-old’s best run was arguably his win over this very course and distance on good ground a year ago, so the fact that we’re no better than good to soft now with the sun set to shine at Kempton, he should have his ideal conditions and can probably be classed as well-handicapped in the circumstances.

He gets the nod here at a reasonable price ahead of Paul Nicholls’ Touch Kick who, barring when he was a handicap blot in an easier race at Fakenham, appears to prefer softer going and should be a little outpaced when the crucial point of the race comes late on.

4.45 Chelmsford (Handicap) – VISIONARA

The strong favourite here should be Asdaa who appears tough and ran second at Southwell only six days ago, but the forecast difference in price between her and Visionara is baffling and the latter is very much worth taking a chance on.

Trained by Simon Crisford, rated just 3lbs lower than Asdaa and having been off for three weeks which is ideal for this seven-furlong race, Visionara has now been handed a first-time visor in a bid to help her straighten up when hitting the lead and at her current steady rate of improvement on the all-weather she would appear to be better off at the weights than the market leader.

The Kingman filly is very much at her best over this course and distance so there’s no logical reason that she should not run her race, while in the case of Asdaa we’d do well to remember that Mark Johnston is not shy to keep running his horses and understands fine well that it means sometimes they will throw in a bad one now and again before returning to form.

With that in mind, would you take 6/4 about one of his who ran less than a week ago in handicap company?  I certainly wouldn’t and so on this occasion, Visionara is the percentage call at likely odds of around 3/1.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Saturday 4th January 2020: Southwold to Get Our Saturday off to a Flyer

We have a busy card on Saturday featuring some potentially lucrative opportunities on the all-weather at Lingfield, which by the way may yet go under the radar somewhat, along with some fine races over the jumps including the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown Park

12.10 Lingfield (Handicap) – STAR OF SOUTHWOLD

This is a decent 0-95 handicap over a mile-and-a-quarter, one in which Mick Appleby’s Star Of Southwold only just gets in and he is taken to outclass his rivals and get us off to a great start.

A fantastic all-weather trainer, Appleby has overseen a steady improvement for this horse and what is striking is that, while this seems to be his ideal trip, his standout run was arguably over a mile at Chelmsford and so it appears he needs things to be just a little quicker than when third last time at Wolverhampton, making Lingfield perfect for him in my view.

The five-year-old gelding has a few in behind for competition, namely Universal Gleam, Creationist and Humbert who can all fight it out for nothing more than place money all being well.

2.25 Sandown (Tolworth Hurdle – Grade 1) – SON OF CAMAS

The biggest race of the day by some way in terms of quality, the Tolworth is a prize worth winning in its own right of course but it can also provide us with more huge Cheltenham Festival clues.

Of the two standout candidates in my opinion, the more exposed is the overnight favourite Fiddlerontheroof of Colin Tizzard’s who climbed to a rating of 140 when winning over the course and distance recently on heavy ground.

He began his campaign with a fine second to Thyme Hill at Cheltenham and has been seen in public six times, so while he’s very good we kind of know where we stand with him and it could be that there’s one to improve past him in the shape of Son Of Camas.

Ordinarily I’d go with the battled hardened Grade 2 runner-up, but in Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old we have a horse that has already reached a similar level without having to be fully tested and coming from this yard we can be sure Son Of Camas wouldn’t have been entered were he not good enough to win.

2.50 Lingfield (Handicap) – LADY BERGAMOT

We’re back on the sand and this time with a fresh animal who, with pace being as important as stamina at Lingfield, can skip clear at some point in the closing stages to hopefully be good enough to score.

While David Simcock’s former Shadwell horse Kitaabaat is obviously good enough at a nice price and Getchagetchagetcha should be well supported in the market, the ability possessed at these weights by Lady Bergamot should see her home as long as she’s fully ready to go having been off for 65 days.

James Fanshawe’s grey mare is six now but she’s only had 19 outings, just seven on the all-weather, and overall appears to be getting better.  Her close-up fifth in a Listed race around here in late October reads well considering that was over a longer trip which, despite her trainer having persevered with it, doesn’t seem ideal and so back over this mile-and-a-half trip we could witness a new career best and that would be good enough.

3.10 Newcastle (Handicap Hurdle) – ROBEAM

This is a low value, Class 4 handicap hurdle but it’s interesting purely because of the presence of our selection Robeam.

Brian Ellison is an underrated trainer who, as a Geordie and big supporter of the operation at Newcastle, loves to land a gamble at Gosforth Park and so whatever he runs around there should at least be taken note of.

Sam’s Adventure is his other major chance on the card among four entries (two in this race), but this is the only one with Brian Hughes on board and he’s a young and improving hurdler who has already landed the odds locally at Sedgefield.  He can go well here, perhaps landing another gamble for the Brian Ellison Racing Club.

If Robeam is to be the one then it’s almost certain he’ll be well backed at this track, making his 13/2 quote overnight looking huge, so the advice would be to get on early if you want to back him.  Celtic Flames probably ranks as best of the rest for Lucinda Russell.

3.35 Sandown (Handicap Hurdle) – SMARTY WILD

This is a competitive enough two-mile handicap hurdle, one in which age could play a big part along with the likely soft underfoot conditions.

The probable favourite is Nicky Henderson’s Gunnery and it’s easy to see why.  He’s from a top yard, carries no weight and is an easy last-time-out winner but it is also worth mentioning that for his current trainer, as well as for Peter Chapple-Hyam on the flat, he looked so much better on good ground and so he could get rather stuck in the mud this time.

Off for almost two years, a live outsider is Colin Tizzard’s Ainchea but it goes without saying that with such a type we’d be taking a chance, while the solid one is Totterdown for Fergal O’Brien who at nine is not past it, but won’t have as much improvement left as some others and has been raised 12lbs for a win here last time.

The biggest likely improver is Smarty Wild, a six-year-old from Philip Hobbs’ yard.  Only seven races into his hurdling career and getting better all the time, this gelding was a good winner in similar conditions to today two runs ago at Exeter before failing to justify favouritism over this track and trip last time.

That was on heavy ground of course which probably worked against him while he’s now only 3lbs higher than when winning at Exeter, a rate that more than likely doesn’t justify his rate of improvement overall and so at the weights he can prove to be the best of the bunch.