Friday 25 February 2022

Saturday 25th February 2022: Pyle In on Driver in Ryadh

John and Thady Gosden’s Mishriff could get close to £20 million in career prize money if he manages a repeat win from out wide in the Saudi Cup this weekend, while the super-rich undercard in Riyadh provides us with a few betting opportunities.

The Winter Derby also takes place at Lingfield, while it is an important weekend of jumping action too at Kempton and Newcastle where we have selections.

It could be a bumper day for the Gosden team as their Group 1 winner Lord North is favourite for the Winter Derby.

It’s a busy Saturday for us with eight selections in total, beginning out in Saudi Arabia with a fine 1m2½f Group 3 event.

12.45 Riyadh (Neom Turf Cup – Group 3) – PYLEDRIVER 

William Muir and Chris Grassick’s Pyledriver is an admirable sort, a fine international traveller and a good earner to boot.

The five-year-old is very much still heading towards his peak despite being a Great Voltigeur and Coronation Cup winner and conditions around this track should be ideal for him to be able to show off his best form.

He can go one better than when he was beaten just a length in the Hong Kong Vase back in December under jockey Martin Dwyer to give the team another huge win.

1.25 Riyadh (1351 Turf Sprint – Group 3) – NAVAL CROWN

Although drawn in stall 14, Godolphin’s Naval Crown has a fine opportunity to join the ranks of Charlie Appleby’s seemingly many seven-furlong stars.

After a fine run in last season’s 2000 Guineas, Naval Crown was narrowly beaten by top-class stablemate Creative Force in the Jersey Stakes but on better ground at Meydan last month he began his year with a comfortable yet taking Group 2 win.

James Doyle takes the ride and he should be sitting pretty before pressing the button with a furlong to go.

1.30 Lingfield (Hever Sprint Stakes – Listed Race) – EXALTED ANGEL 

There is plenty of speed on show in this Listed event despite the small, six-runner field. Mondammej has plenty of toe, as does Tone The Barone who is a big danger.

Lord Riddiford has done us a favour before and he is of course feared today, however the one I like best in this contest is Exalted Angel.

Karl Burke’s gelding was unlucky in running last time and should appreciate the drop back down to five furlongs.

1.50 Kempton (Adonis Juvenile Hurdle – Grade 2) – KNIGHT SALUTE

Milton Harris’s unbeaten juvenile Knight Salute has remained at a backable price this week, which I for one am surprised about.

Not only us he four from four over hurdles, but he is improving in lumps between runs and should reach the sort of level now that would see him have too much power for Impulsive One, Graystone and Pleasant Man.

2.05 Riyadh (Red Sea Turf Handicap – Group 3) – SISKANY 

Back to the Middle East we go and a chance to jump on board the Siskany train. Charlie Appleby’s up-and-coming stayer is four from 8 on the turf, but he's been especially strong and progressive since having a gelding operation last August.

He’s been kept relatively busy since then, winning at Newmarket, being sent to a Group 3, finishing second at Kempton and then winning last time out at Meydan.

He was a beaten odds-on favourite at Kempton, but his run there was important as it is all part of the learning curve for him while his win over Alignak last time out was very impressive. He should be comfortably ahead of his handicap mark and can do some damage before heading back to Dubai and then onto Europe for the summer.

2.25 Kempton (Pendil Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – PIC D’ORHY 

Minella Drama is all the rage with Brian Hughes on board, but speed could play a crucial part in this contest and with that in mind, I much prefer Paul Nicholls’ Pic D’Orhy.

The seven-year-old may well be able to do some damage between fences, Harry Cobden no doubt keeping an eye all the while on Millers Bank, Minella Drama and main danger Fantastic Lady.

Pic D’Orhy’s key piece of form is his nine-length win at Ascot in December at Grade 2 level when he was excellent ahead of Faivoir, and though he was less impressive last time it should prove to be a one-off and he remains progressive overall.

3.00 Kempton (Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – ICEO

Shallwehaveonemore and Aucunrisque should be popular in the market and they are both dangers for sure, however there is plenty to recommend youngster Iceo in the race he is backed to score for the Nicholls team.

Once again, it’s the pace angle I like here, Iceo at these weights having recorded some good figures even on softer ground.

In fact Iceo’s most impressive run was over this course and distance which is a fact we cannot afford to ignore, so back at the scene of his fine win in December he can give Harry Cobden another winner.

Moriko De Vassy had other options this weekend and is certainly not out of this, while Shallwehaveonemore is the rightful favourite for the Moore team.

3.15 Newcastle (Eider Handicap Chase – Class 2) – DANILO D’AIRY 

This is a good, competitive renewal of the Eider Chase with 17 runners going to post.

History Of Fashion represents the Irish form and will be well supported on the track no doubt, while Éclair Surf, Court Master, Domaine De L’Isle and Checkitout would all make the shortlist.

The one I like best however is Danilo D’Airy. Robert Bevis’ charge, although pulled-up last time over hurdles, is unbeaten this sphere and appears to be improving rapidly.

Not only is he getting better but he also clearly appreciates a trip, so while he has an extra mile or so to cover today it may well be that he is simply all the better for it. Gavin Sheehan takes the ride and he is just the right jockey to guide Danilo D’Airy round Newcastle to victory.

Friday 18 February 2022

Saturday 19th February 2022: The Rambler Returns South for More Glory

There are six backable types up and down the country on Saturday, as we bet in both codes on Ascot Chase and Grand National Trial day.

1.25 Lingfield (Handicap) – KISSININTHEBACKROW 

We could still be facing issues on Saturday at Lingfield and Ascot with the wind created by Storm Eunice. Much of our punting depends on those meetings going ahead and, assuming they do, our first bet comes in the early mile-and-a-quarter handicap.

State Legend is the one for money, but after her late show to score around here over a mile I reckon Kissininthebackrow’s latest run is at least as good as the form shown by the likely favourite and she gets 3lbs from him too.

Brian Meehan’s filly clearly has more improvement in her too, especially at this trip, Ryan Moore has been booked to ride and she looks very solid value to score.

Against him State Legend is respected, but he’s done his best work at Wolverhampton on the Tapeta and there is no guarantee he can repeat what he’s been doing on this surface.

Both Mashkuur and Already Gone also have the ability to go close at the weights, but it’s easy to see Moore being able to boot Kissininthebackrow clear up the straight.

1.50 Ascot (Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – CORACH RAMBLER 

Four of the six runners in this crucial three-mile novice chase look very close on the numbers at first glance, Does He Know, Annual Invictus, Caroch Rambler and Doyen Breed all looking capable.

Does He Know (Kim Bailey) is solid, but his wins have come on good ground and he didn’t perform on the soft when running over hurdles.

Annual Invictus (Chris Gordon) did well on the soft last time and won more than once in wet conditions over hurdles, while he also wears a first-time sheepskin noseband.

Doyen Breed (Sandy Thomson) was second in Grade 2 company on his last run, but hasn’t improved hugely in three runs over fences so far.

The one I like best is Lucinda Russell’s impressive Cheltenham novice handicap chase winner Corach Rambler. He won in eye-catching fashion at both Aintree and Cheltenham in fact but hung right last time in the Classic Chase at Warwick.

He’s much better than that and has the assistance of Derek Fox up top who was excellent aboard Douglas Talking at Sandown on Thursday, and who may employ similarly positive tactics on this improving eight-year-old.

2.05 Haydock (Rendlesham Hurdle – Grade 2) – THOMAS DARBY 

Our sole bet in the relatively calm waters of the north on Saturday comes in the Rendlesham Hurdle, a fine race and a precursor to the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.

Olly Murphy’s Thomas Darby is as big as 25/1 for that event, but he’s the most solid runner in this line-up for my money and rates a bet under Aidan Coleman.

Winner of this season’s Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, Thomas Darby has won on heavy ground before and should relish this test.

Third Wind, Emitom, Top Ville Ben and Molly Ollys Wishes are all dangerous if on song.

3.38 Ascot (Ascot Chase – Grade 1) – FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES 

This is a massive Grade 1 chase over two miles and five furlongs, an event that could provide contenders for the Ryanair Chase and/or the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.

Trainer Joseph O’Brien is something like 0-50 at Ascot on the Flat and over jumps, so it’s high time he won one around here!

His Fakir D’oudairies is the one I like and O’Brien himself has gone on record to say he thinks the Ascot Chase represents a good chance for his popular runner to score at the highest level over fences.

Fakir D’oudairies has had to chase Allaho home a few times so far, but while he’s not up to that level he is already a Grade 1 winner having taken the 2½-mile Melling Chase in great style ten months ago.

As far as the ground goes, he was impressive on the soft in the Clonmel Oil Chase back in November and should be seen to best effect on this track and over this extra distance for O’Brien and jockey Mark Walsh. 

Fanion D’Estruval and Saint Calvados appear to be the biggest dangers according to the betting, while Mister Fisher handles the trip and the ground but may or may not be able to put it all together at Grade 1 level.

3.45 Lingfield (Handicap) – PIRATE KING

Bugle Major has had a few mentions this week at a hefty price and to be fair this is a close-looking contest before you dig particularly deep into the form.

Celtic Art, Protected Guest and Desert Emperor are all at a similar level and all are solid in this mile-and-a-half handicap, though they all ran around a week ago and at this trip that often means they won’t be at their very best.

Pirate King on the other hand last ran a month ago which is perfect and he so often puts up solid performances over this course and distance.

Charlie Fellowes’ seven-year-old is a four-time winner over this track and trip, is on the same mark as when last winning here, is in good form and has Ryan Moore booked to ride making him a solid betting proposition.

4.20 Lingfield (Handicap) – WHITTLE LE WOODS 

This is a Class 2 event worth nearly £11,000 to the winner, making the situation certain to have led to all-weather trainers preparing their horses specifically for the event.

That is backed up by the fact that main contenders Tinker Toy, Karibana, Sir Oliver, Shoot To Kill and Whittle Le Woods have been kept off the track for anything from two weeks to seven months.

Roger Varian’s Tinker Toy stayed well at Newcastle but may need that sort of surface, while Shoot To Kill is on a great run and gets the chance to keep it going having initially been declared for Friday’s abandoned card.

Karibana and Sir Oliver have done well in similar conditions to what this race provides, bust the best of them has to be Whittle Le Woods.

Mick Appleby is excellent at the all-weather tracks and has trained this improving four-year-old to manage two wins and two runner-up efforts in four outings so far.

He was a close second to the bang in-form Tommy Taylor at Newcastle, then beat Lenende D’Art at Chelmsford who won both before and after that contest.

Jason Watson is once again on board, he has the inside draw and is only 2lbs higher than when winning 18 days ago at Wolverhampton and now returns to a surface that suits his style well.

Friday 11 February 2022

Saturday 12th February 2022: Royale and King to Hand Us a Regal Day

It’s Betfair Hurdle Day at Newbury, with four pattern races on the Berkshire track’s card backed up by the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick and a Listed mares’ chase at Naas.

There is also all-weather action on the level, but we go for two very majestic sounding horses at Newbury and Warwick to get us going over the jumps, beginning with the high quality Denman Chase.

2.25 Newbury (Denman Chase – Grade 2) – ROYALE PAGAILLE

After winning last year’s Peter Marsh Chase in fine fashion, it was decided that Royale Pagaille should be thrust right into the Gold Cup mix.

He remains very highly thought of in the Venetia Williams yard and managed a repeat success in the Peter Marsh three weeks ago off 11st10lbs.

He can get to the 170 level now before heading back to Cheltenham, which puts him very close to what is expected these days of Clan Des Obeaux.

There have been some worries about the form of the Paul Nicholls yard too, which adds doubts to the chances of Clan Des Obeaux. Imperial Aura and Eldorado Allen don’t look good enough, meaning there is not a whole lot of competition in the field making anything above 2/1 or so look value for Royale Pagaille.

3.15 Warwick (Handicap Chase) – THE KING OF MAY

Brian Ellison’s team has been going well of late and his The King Of May could add to the recent haul with a win in this two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase.

If likely favourite Celebre D’Allen can transfer his fine British hurdling form to fences he may be tough to beat, but on his French form he wouldn’t look to have too much in hand in all truth.

The King Of May on the other hand is in confirmed fine form and his stable has done even better since he last ran 29 days ago.

Sent off at 9/2 under Brian Hughes in a Class 3 event at Sedgefield, he jumped and stayed on well to beat Road Warrior convincingly, a horse who was a last-time-out winner and who has been runner-up twice more since.

The Sedgefield form can often be overlooked, while his 7lbs rise in the weights still leaves him 4lbs lower than his peak rating.

3.35 Newbury (Betfair Hurdle – Grade 3) – TRITONIC 

With novices tending to do well, the likes of Jpr One and Broomfield Burg have been well backed for this event and can indeed go very well.

Last year’s winner Soaring Glory may have a little too much to do at the weights, while Boothill and Jetoile may be well handicapped and cannot be overlooked.

The one I like best is Tritonic. Just last year Alan King’s runner was sent off at 4/1 third-favourite for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and we all know he is a talent.

Despite having had seven hurdle runs to date which have added vital racing experience, he undoubtedly has plenty more to come as a five-year-old and was a Grade 3 winner at Ascot in similar conditions to what he faces this weekend as recently as December.

6.15 Wolverhampton (Novice Stakes) – DECIDUOUS 

Charlie Appleby should be considered the undisputed no.1 Flat trainer in Britain right now, backed up by some fantastically bought and bred Godolphin runners.

In this low-key novice race over a mile-and-a-half, it’s fair to say his latest three-year-old debutant Deciduous probably isn’t one of the stable’s leading lights. But, while the big-hitters are doing their thing out in Dubai the yard continues to go well in Britain.

Deciduous’s half-brother ran to a mark of around 80+ on debut as a juvenile, so given this gelding is by Dubawi and is a little older, we can expect at least that from him if not more which would be common for an Appleby first-time runner.

The others have all run before, with Wendell’s Lad perhaps the only one who looks capable of improving enough to challenge should the selection do what is expected first time on the track. Benedict Wildes is next on the list.

7.15 Wolverhampton (Handicap) – CAROLINE DALE

This is a good quality Class 2 five-furlong sprint on the Tapeta. Lord Riddiford is proven at this level, while likely favourite Existent was very sharp in winning at Chelmsford last time out.

Moving from the Essex track to this one adds doubts to the chances of the market leader however, though there are no such uncertainties about fellow four-year-old Caroline Dale who is very much on the way up for David Loughnane.

Other than taking in two novice events, the filly has not raced outside of Class 3 level in her career to date, running third in the 2020 Queen Mary as well as a Listed race along the way.

More recently she was a taking winner at Southwell over the minimum trip on her first start since having had a wind operation and she would appear to have plenty in hand versus her official handicap mark.

Friday 4 February 2022

Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th February 2022: Get on Frodon at DRF

Huge graded action takes place over the jumps this weekend which will have massive implications for the Cheltenham Festival betting markets.

As for Britain’s failures at recent Festivals; my theory for what it’s worth is that it is not so much about a gulf in class, but simply fitness. Too many home-trained horses are kept off the track from December or January and are undercooked for Cheltenham, many going on to run well at Aintree.

Whatever happens at the Dublin Racing Festival this weekend, look out for winners and those running well who will subsequently be spot-on for March.

I found it hard to split two in the Scilly Isles at Sandown, Blue Lord looks good in the Irish Arkle without offering any value, while it is hard to see the short-priced Honeysuckle and Sir Gerhard failing.

Offering better value are the following selections: 

Saturday 5th February 2022

1.50 Sandown (Contenders Hurdle – Listed Race) – GOSHEN

The infamous Goshen has had lots of chances, that’s true, but all things considered he was not far at all from his best last time out and we know how good he can be.

Goshen hung right at Lingfield in a three-runner race and his form can be upgraded. He gets to race right-handed this time which we know he loves and he may just have too much under Jamie Moore.

There should be plenty of money coming in for Song For Someone and Guard Your Dreams, but could we argue the pair of them are slightly regressing? A better alternative may be ten-year-old Global Citizen in receipt of 6lbs at a nice price for the forecast.

3.15 Leopardstown (Irish Gold Cup – Grade 1) – FRODON

Last year’s winner and one-time Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Kemboy may be all the rage for this race, and he does rate as a big danger to the selection for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.

Frodon however is a solid choice. Despite an underwhelming run in the King George at Kempton we pretty much know what to expect from the popular ten-year-old.

Showing his wellbeing, Bryony Frost’s regular partner was as good as ever when landing a Grade 1 at Down Royal back in late October and he has been prepped to perfection by Paul Nicholls not for Cheltenham, but for this very event.

Frodon’s very best is a little better than Kemboy’s, but while Frodon looks as though he is holding his form, Kemboy for all his efforts is maybe just incapable of reaching his peak nowadays.

It’ll be fascinating to see how Gold Cup winner Minella Indo gets on. His stable was having a real golden period when he took the Cheltenham feature, with the rest of his form not showing up as well as the Nicholls horse despite his place in the market.

Janidil is value to get involved, as is Asterion Forlonge.

3.25 Lingfield (Winter Derby Trial – Listed Race) – AL ZARAQAAN

Richard Hannon’s Fancy Man has been the one for money having won around Lingfield over a mile-and-a-half on his all-weather debut back in September. He just about won that day and was unimpressive, though clearly many expect better now.

Much more solid you’d have to say is Al Zaraqaan. A four-time winner for William Haggas, Al Zaraqaan made an impressive stable debut for Archie Watson at Newcastle last month and has very much had the Winter Derby itself as his main target since.

4-4 on synthetic surfaces, he’s won at three different all-weather tracks, has the speed and has the class to reach a mark of at least 110 which would definitely make him good enough to take this under Hollie Doyle.

The improving King Of The South was next on the list ahead of the aforementioned Fancy Man and finally Living Legend.

4.00 Lingfield (Kachy Stakes – Listed Race) – LORD OF THE LODGE 

Sticking with Lingfield on the Flat and another Listed race, this six-furlong sprint should be a competitive affair.

Good Effort has shown solid form at Deauville, Newcastle and at Lingfield on the all-weather, his most impressive performance in fact coming over this track and trip.

Spycatcher looks dangerous while Rohaan was superb on the turf last season, but the one I like best is Lord Of The Lodge who we successfully backed last time.

Karl Burke’s five-year-old is peaking now. He won for us at Kempton last time and is a course winner over seven furlongs too. His best overall performance was around here in a handicap, his most impressive speed figure was achieved at the same time and it seems the combo of this track and the six furlongs will bring out the very best in him.

Sunday 6th February 2022 

1.50 Leopardstown (Dublin Chase – Grade 1) – GREANETEEN 

Just the five runners for this top-class race, but in any case, it could come down to the two class acts in the event.

Chacun Pour Soi was third in the Champion Chase at the Festival last season before winning the equivalent at Punchestown.

Greaneteen, just like Frodon, has been prepped for this without Cheltenham in mind and could even better his impressive Tingle Creek victory from December.

Chacun Pour Soi has been far from infallible. His worst run overall in fact was last time out and he definitely looks vulnerable to the Nicholls horse now at odds-on.

Greaneteen is the value in the race then, with Captain Guinness and Dunvegan just a level or two below the big duo.

4.00 Kempton (Handicap) – LA TIHATY 

At the time of writing only one bookmaker has odds listed for this race, putting up La Tihaty at 6/4 at that.

The hope though is that better value is available elsewhere come race time, and by my reckoning the improving Roger Varian runner is genuinely head and shoulders above this opposition and so is not in danger barring bad luck.

On an all-weather four-timer, La Tihaty is a course and distance winner, has more speed than the others, is already ahead of his handicap mark and in fact is getting better.