Friday, 24 February 2017

Bar Worth One More Chance In Eider

Well, Say My Name was a bitter disappointment earlier in the Devon National, and he never jumped a fence. He managed to stay in touch for quite a while thanks to his engine, but a mile from home he became tailed off after a series of laboured leaps. He remains a horse with potential, but he needs to brush up on his jumping if he wants to get back to winning ways.
Hopefully Milansbar bounces back to form in the Eider.
Confidence is obviously low after a poor run of results this week but, as the song goes, Things Can Only Get Better, and hopefully Milansbar can bounce back to form in the Eider Handicap at Newcastle. This 4 mile marathon will be run on testing ground, and that should really suit Neil King’s 10yo son of Milan. I tipped him up last time at Warwick, but he ran a stinker and was pulled up.

King’s yard was under a bit of a cloud then, and Milansbar was never going to figure after almost slipping up on the flat in the Welsh National at Chepstow on his previous start. He was pulled up on that occasion too, but King’s horse are running much better now. He has had 10 runners since the 11th of February, and 8 of those have finished in the first four.

One positive that can be gleaned from Milansbar’s last couple of poor runs is that the handicapper has eased him in the weights. It is less than 12 months since he was a fine second behind Firebird Flyer in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter (33.5f soft) off 145, and he now races off a mark of just 138.

He last won almost a year ago to the day off 137, hosing up at Exeter by 8L. Hopefully he gets into a rhythm early and avoids any early mistakes. If Whelan can get him rolling he will stay every inch of the trip, he loves the ground and at odds of 20/1 he is worth chancing for small stakes each way.


STEVOS’ SELECTION: 14.45-MILANSBAR E/W @ 20/1 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Buckler’s Charge Could Have A Say In Devon National

Huntingdon felt the full force of Storm Doris earlier, so we will never know how Triopas would have run. Grey Britain couldn’t get in from his wide draw, and he is a better horse than he showed today.

Inch Rise was agonisingly pipped for a place at Thurles and ensured the day ended on a losing note. Tomorrow I fancy one in the Devon National at Exeter, and Say My Name looks well worth a crack over this marathon trip of almost 3m 7f.
Bob Buckler and Say My Name.
Bob Buckler’s 6yo son of Fleetwood has had just the one start over fences and, though he was well beaten in 3rd, he did finish off the race really well and he wasn’t stopping when he crossed the line.
That run came over 3 miles on soft ground at Chepstow off a mark of 125, and it wasn’t the first time that Say My Name shaped as though a real stamina test would suit.

He has a good record over timber here, hosing up in a handicap off 115 on this card last season by 15L (23f soft). His next run in a novices’ heat over c&d behind Wotzizname was also encouraging, and he stayed on well behind that horse for 2nd.

He was pulled up in a hot handicap at Punchestown on his final start last season, and he was entitled to need his comeback run over hurdles at Bangor back in November.

This could be a big ask on just his second chase start, but he at least gained some experience last time at Chepstow. The handicapper has also dropped him to 122, just 7lb higher than the mark off which he won so easily off here last year.

Given his liking for this track, it would be no surprise if this is his target for the season, and former Irish Grand National winning trainer Bob Buckler knows what is required in these long distance handicap chases.

Buckler has a respectable record overall at Exeter, sending out 11 winners and 57 placed horses from 240 runners. Liam Heard, on board for Say My Name’s impressive win here last season, is back on board, replacing an inexperienced claimer. Heard has ridden 11 winners and been placed on 20 of his 113 rides for Buckler.

Say My Name’s form figures for his last 3 runs here read 212 and, at odds of 22/1, he could reward each way support in a race that has thrown up a few big priced winners down through the years.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 15.50 EXETER-SAY MY NAME E/W @ 22/1

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Robbie Could Get The Job Dunne On Triopas At Huntingdon

Mortens Leam was eventually sent off as a 12/1 shot on Tuesday but, unfortunately, it wasn’t his day. He looked to be travelling well as they started turning down the back, but the wide passage charted by his jockey eventually took its toll.
Robbie Dunne looks a significant booking for Triopas.
He was posted 4 or 5 horses wide for the vast majority of the race, and he was never going to get home after that. He did show promise though, and he is worth keeping an eye on for his next couple of starts.

Storm Doris is due to hit overnight, and the current good to soft ground at Huntingdon could deteriorate. I think that could play into the hands of handicap debutant Triopas, a 5yo son of Stowaway who looks bred to appreciate give underfoot.

Tom Lacey’s charge ran his best race under rules on good to firm when beaten in a decent bumper at Aintree (17f), but he got a lot closer to the winner of that race, Gustave Mahler, when they met on good to soft in a point to point at Barbury (20f).

Stowaway’s progeny usually appreciate a bit of give, and Triopas’ dam won 5 races, 3 of which came on soft ground at 20f. The booking of Robbie Dunne for the first time catches the eye, and he replaces inexperienced claimer Tommie O’Brien in the saddle.

Dunne has ridden for these connections on 17 occasions, winning on 6 and placing on a further 4. That is a very good strike rate, and it suggests that better may be expected on handicap debut off a mark of just 93.

This fella’s form has been woeful, so it takes a big leap of faith to support him. However, if the heavens open and the ground turns soft, he could well reward each way support off his low mark at odds of 25/1.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 13.30 HUNTINGDON-TRIOPAS E/W 25/1

Monday, 20 February 2017

Sly’s Good Run Could Continue At Wetherby

Court Jester was well backed into as short as 8/1 in some places on Sunday, and as they turned for home he looked to be travelling ominously well into the race. However, he stopped as if shot after the second last fence, and there must have been something amiss. I had a 16/1 winner going onto him for an each way double, the second time in two days that a possible big win has been scuppered.
Pam Sly's horses are flying.
Tomorrow I like the look of one on handicap debut at Wetherby, and Mortens Leam could outrun his big odds off a mark of 104. This 5yo son of Sulamani trained by Pam Sly, and there are few yards in better form at the moment. She has sent out 3 winners and a 2nd from her last 5 runners, and hopefully this well related gelding can take a big step forward in this company.

All four of his half siblings have managed to win under rules, over trips ranging from 16f to 25f on all sorts of ground. Mortens Leam has only troubled the judge once, when runner up on his third start in a bumper at Market Rasen, but he did show a bit of promise on his penultimate start at Leicester (20.5f gd) back at the start of December.

That was just his second start over hurdles, and he was bang there at the second last having led for most of the race. He faded into 4th after jumping the last, and it makes sense to drop him back a furlong on his handicap debut. The winner of that race has since scored in a handicap off 119, and he was 14L ahead of Mortens Leam at the finish.

That would suggest a mark of 104 is more than fair, and Mr J Andrews takes off 7lbs. He has had 5 rides for Sly, and he has won on two and placed on another. Sly does well at Wetherby too, sending out 5 winners from 30 runners in the last 5 seasons. Mortens Leam can currently be backed at odds of 33/1 with Betfair and, at that sort of price, he is worth chancing for small stakes each way.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 16.00 WETHERBY-MORTENS LEAM E/W 33/1

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Jester Could Have The Last Laugh At Navan

Cresswell Breeze could only manage fifth earlier, miles behind the front two but only 5L off third. It was a decent run but, to be honest, I thought she had a winning chance. She jumped big and bold early on, but the alarm bells were ringing about a mile from home when she lost her position and Noonan gave her a couple of smacks with the whip.
Cresswell Breeze ran well but only managed 5th.
I thought she actually kept on pretty well, and jumping the last I was hoping she would stay on past a couple for third. In my opinion, it wasn’t a lack of stamina that beat her, she just lacked a bit of toe on the drying ground. I think she could go close on slightly softer ground over a similar, or slightly shorter trip, and she is not one to lose faith in just yet.

It was hard to find the motivation to look at Sunday’s cards  after Cresswell’s run, especially as I had a 12/1 winner going on to her for a very tasty e/w double. However, Court Jester went into my tracker after a nice run at Down Royal on his seasonal comeback when 6th, and I think he could be set for a big run off bottom weight, returned to the scene of his last win.

This 11yo son of Pushkin is lightly raced for his age, and he has managed two 16f handicap hurdle wins from 25 starts. It is, admittedly, not a great strike rate but his trainer, Sammy Wilson, would likely not have persisted with him unless he thought he had another race in him. He has been dropped to a mark of 84 on Sunday, 9lb below the mark off which he won here 3 years ago.

Useful claimer Shane Crimin takes off an additional 5lb, so effectively Court Jester is a stone below his last winning rating. He has run well on two of his last three starts, so some ability certainly remains, and he will love the testing conditions (both wins on heavy). He can be backed at odds of 25/1 and, at that sort of price, he has to be worthy of a couple of quid each way.


STEVOS’ SELECTION: 16.40 NAVAN-COURT JESTER E/W 25/1

Friday, 17 February 2017

Breeze Is The Bet In Grand National Trial At Haydock

The big handicap chase of the day on Saturday is the Grand National Trial at Haydock, and I am amazed to see Cresswell Breeze priced up at as big as 20/1 for this Grade 3. This mare has given Anthony Honeyball and her owners some big days out, and she looks well worth a crack over this marathon trip. She was showing no signs of stopping when hosing up at Taunton (24f hvy) when winning her 3rd handicap hurdle on the trot, and her pedigree suggests she should stay this longer trip.
Anthony Honeyball has his string in fine form. 
This 7yo daughter of Midnight Legend is out of a mare that won 4 chases at trips ranging from 21f to 25.5f, so stamina should not be an issue. The way she finished off her race last time in a Listed handicap at Leicester behind the talented Desert Queen (22f good) suggested she was ready for further and, though she ran poorly over 24f at Market Rasen previously, that was her seasonal comeback so it can be excused.

Her last hurdle win came off a mark of 112 but, thus far, she has failed to get her head in front in a handicap chase. She rallied well and was closing on the winner all the way to the line in a valuable handicap at the Punchestown festival (21f yld), beaten less than a length off a mark of 130. She is only 2lb higher on Saturday off 132, and she gets in off bottom weight of 10st 6lbs.

I think this mare may have been trained with this race in mind, and her trainer is absolutely flying. He has had 2 winners and 2 places already this week, and Harry Cobden was on board for 3 of those. Cobden has an astonishing strike rate overall when riding for the Honeyball yard, racking up 13 wins and 11 places from just 41 rides. She can still be backed at odds of 20/1, and she will surely be a lot shorter on the day. Drying ground is another positive, and I think Cresswell Breeze is capable of running a huge race and rewarding each way support.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 15.15 HAYDOCK-CRESSWELL BREEZE E/W @ 20/1

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Fossa Can Fly Upped In Trip At Wolves

Hattons Hill was well backed throughout the day on Wednesday, and he ran a nice enough race in third. He couldn’t get anywhere near the easy winner, and at one stage it looked as though he might struggle to even place.

However, his stamina kicked in between the last two fences, and he kept on well for 3rd spot. He is capable of winning a bad handicap, and a slight step up in trip might be what he needs to get his head in front.
Mark Brisbourne could have a winner at Wolves.
Friday’s fancy is another horse that has been crying out for an extra furlong or two, and Fossa could run a big race at nice odds in the opener at Wolverhampton. He went very close on his last two runs over 7f here, and he has had little assistance from the saddle on his last couple of runs over shorter.

Jordan Vaughan has ridden plenty of winners for his boss Karl Burke, and he is an eyecatching booking for Mark Brisbourne’s 7yo son of Dubai Destination. His daughter Becky rode last time, and she didn’t enjoy the clearest of passages.

Fossa got shuffled back through the field at a crucial stage of the race, and it was game over when he eventually did find daylight. He was arguably unlucky on his penultimate start at Kempton over 6f, getting badly hampered but staying on well in the closing stages for a never nearer 5th.

He has been dropped back down to a mark of 46 after those runs, the same rating off which he was an unlucky second on his last run over course and distance. He is drawn wide in stall 9, but he will be dropped in early so that is not too much of a worry.

Given his preferred running style he will need luck in running, but in Jordan Vaughan he has a jockey capable of going for the right gaps at the right time. Misu Pete and Kingstreet Lady look like potential dangers but, at odds of 16/1, I think Fossa looks way overpriced in an open looking handicap.


STEVOS’ SELECTION: 17.45 WOLVERHAMPTON: FOSSA E/W @ 16/1

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Hatton Could Land A Knockout Blow Back At Newcastle

Margot Fontaine ran no sort of race for us on Monday and, after racing prominently, the distress signals were being sent out a long way from home. She was first beat, and she was a mile behind Kings Walk, who she was weighted to finish ahead of. It was too bad a run to be true, and she is better than she showed on Monday.
Tony Kelly does well when riding for Henry Hogarth. 
Tomorrow I think Hattons Hill could be worth chancing back at Newcastle after he was pulled up when upped in trip at Catterick last time. He was found to be slightly lame after that race, so he had an excuse and, if he can get back to the form of his excellent 3rd here on his penultimate run off the same mark as he has today, he could give each way backers a run for their money in this 2m 4f class 5 handicap.

That promising course and distance run was just the 2nd handicap start for Hattons Hill, and he showed more than enough ability to suggest he could win a race. He was outpaced early on and at the halfway stage he looked like he would be beaten a country mile. However, he started to make ground when they turned in, and he was gaining ground rapidly on the front two at the finish, beaten just 3L in 3rd at the finish.

Considering how he stayed on, it was a disappointing effort last time upped in trip, but he had a valid excuse. He returns to the scene of his best run off the same mark off which he was 3rd, and he enjoys a 7lb swing in the weights with the horse who was a nose behind the winner in second that day, Under The Red Sky. 7lb for a 3L defeat is a big turnaround, and if Hattons Hill is fully fit and raring to go he should get a strong pace to aim at in this race.

Henry Hogarth has a fine record at Newcastle, sending out 16 winners and 14 to be placed from just 88 runners. Tony Kelly has ridden 7 winners and been placed on 12 of his rides for the trainer. If Hattons Hill is back to the form of his penultimate run, he is capable of producing a big performance off the same mark. He will be staying on late in the day when others have cried enough, and he could reward each way support at odds of 20/1.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 14.50 NEWCASTLE-HATTONS HILL E/W 20/1

Monday, 13 February 2017

Margot Could Lead Them On A Merry Dance At Plumpton

Who’s That ended our losing run in the opener at Leopardstown, but that was to be our only winner. Bunk Off Early ran a huge race and, judging by the way he travelled, he will be well suited by a fast run race over 2 miles on better ground in the Spring.

Our Duke also claimed the runner up spot behind Disko and, while I don’t like criticising jockeys, I don’t think Robbie Power will be too happy with the ride he gave the horse. He rode him too confidently, and I think there was still plenty left in the tank as they crossed the line.

Meri Devie, my NAP, pulled her chance away in the early stages and she is another that will be suited by a stronger pace at the festival. More Than That pitched on landing at the last when there with every chance, but whether he would have found much in the closing stages is debatable.
Bunk Off Early was a big eyecatcher at Leopardstown.
Plumpton, of a Monday, can often throw up a big priced winner or two, and I think the Anna Newton Smith trained Margot Fontaine could outrun her odds of 22/1 in the 20.5f handicap hurdle at 15.00. This 7yo daughter of Tobougg ran no sort of race on her handicap debut here over 25f (hvy), but the form of her 3rd on soft over c&d on her final maiden run has worked out exceptionally well.

The winner of that race, No Comment, is officially rated 137 and he finished 11L ahead of Margot Fontaine. The 4th home, King’s Walk, won a maiden at Plumpton on his next start. He was 1.5L behind the selection. She is a couple of pounds better off with him today. The 5th home, Chelsea Flyer, won a decent Novice at Doncaster last time and is rated 130. He was over 6L behind the selection.

Margot Fontaine admittedly ran poorly on her handicap debut here off 112 (25f hvy) but the bottomless ground and extra distance may have found her out. She has been dropped to 110, Tom Cannon, who was on board for her three maiden runs, is back in the saddle and she is back down to what could be her optimum trip right now. She could make a bold bid from the front and, if she puts her best hoof forward, she could reward each way support at 22/1. 

STEVOS’ SELECTION: 15.00 PLUMPTON-MARGOT FONTAINE E/W @ 22/1

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Leopardstown Irish Gold Cup Day Selections

Our rotten run of luck continued today with Gassin Golf tipping up early on in the Betfair Hurdle. The front two ended up pulling a long way clear, and in hindsight I think a place was the best we could have hoped for. Thankfully, both horse and jockey came away unscathed, and hopefully Gassin Golf gets back to the track soon.

Leopardstown is the venue for a card chock full of quality, and there are no less than four Grade 1s to be run. The Gold Cup is the big one, and last year’s winner Carlingford Lough is back to defend his crown. He faces a high calibre field though, and it won’t be plain sailing for him. If you want to find out what my fancies are for this top class card, just read below.
The booking of Mark Walsh for More Of That catches the eye.
RACE 1

This Mares’ Handicap Hurdle has been won by the Liam Cusack trained Who’s That for the last two seasons, and she looks to have every chance again this year off just 6lb higher than in 2016. Her first two runs this season came over fences, and she was well beaten in a Grade 2 Chase last time. She couldn’t make an impact off a mark of 127 on her handicap debut in that sphere, but the return to hurdling at a track she loves should bring about improvement.

She is rated 21lb lower over timber, and she showed she could be competitive off this sort of rating with a fine 6th off 107 here last February, just 2L behind the winner Solita. She is a pound lower now, and useful claimer Rachel Blackmore takes off a very handy 5lb. She will handle the ground, she loves the track and at odds of 9/1 she looks worth supporting each way.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: WHO’S THAT @ 9/1 E/W

RACE 2

14 go to post in this 2 mile handicap hurdle, and it looks a very open heat. Canelie has been made favourite off a mark of 121 after a couple of good maiden runs, but I think it makes sense to chance one at a much bigger price. Dragon Fei hails from the on fire Dermot McLoughlin yard, and I think his mare looks a huge price at 28/1.

This 7yo daughter of Jeremy has had just 4 starts over timber, and she won easily on her debut in a maiden at Tipperary (16f gd/yld) back in October 2015. She was outclassed on her next couple of hurdle starts, and she unseated on her handicap debut at Ballinrobe. She has won on heavy on the level, she has been freshened up after a few runs on the flat and, at odds of 28/1, she could run a big race off a mark of 118.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: DRAGON FEI @ 28/1 E/W

RACE 3

This is the first of a quartet of Grade 1 contests on the card, and it is a cracking race. Some big reputations are on the line, and it will be interesting to see if Ruby has made the right choice in Bapaume. I have backed Housesofparliament for the Triumph, but I don’t think he will be seen to best effect on the soft ground tomorrow.

The one I fancy for this race beat Housesofparliament here at the Xmas meeting, and Meri Devie could repeat the dose in this race. Willie Mullins’ 4yo daughter of Spirit One stood out like a sore thumb in the parade ring before that race, and it was hard not to be taken by this imposing filly. She showed she was more than just a good looker with a commanding win and, in receipt of weight from the majority of her rivals, she could be hard to beat. She is the selection at odds of 7/2.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: MERI DEVIE @ 7/2 WIN NAP

RACE 4

Some serious horses have won the Deloitte in recent seasons, none better than the ill fated Vautour. Willie Mullins has an extremely strong hand this year as he bids to win it for the fifth time in a row. Saturnas has been put in as favourite after his impressive win last time in Grade 1 company, but I prefer the chances of his stablemate Bunk Off Early.

This 5yo son of Zebedee is highly thought of by connections, and he made a very impressive hurdling debut here on St Stephens’ Day. Ruby struggled to get him settled early on, but that mattered little as he pinged the last two hurdles and powered clear in the home straight under hands and heels for an easy win. This race will be run at a quicker pace, and that should enable Townend to get him settled early on. Hopefully he is still travelling well when they turn in and, if he is, he has the turn of foot to get the job done at odds of 4/1.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: BUNK OFF EARLY @ 4/1 WIN

RACE 5

This Grade 1 Novices’ Chase has attracted 6 runners and if Our Duke can cut out the mistakes I think he has the class to win this. Bellshill is undoubtedly a formidable opponent, and the bookies have made him the 11/8 favourite. He has done little wrong in his three starts over fences, and he jumped and travelled exceedingly well when winning a Grade 2 at Limerick on bad ground last time.

However, while Our Duke’s jumping might leave a bit to be desired at times, there is no doubting his engine. He has improved massively this season, and he showed real guts, as well as a touch of class, to beat Coney Island here last time. I am not worried about the drop in trip and the ground is fine, I am more concerned about his jumping. If he can put in a clear round, I think he can take Bellshill’s scalp and, at odds of 11/4, he is the selection.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: OUR DUKE @ 11/4 WIN

RACE 6

The feature race of the day is the Irish Gold Cup, and Carlingford Lough is back to defend the crown he won in thrilling fashion last season. However, he is up against some classy rivals, and this race could turn out to be a real classic. Barry Geraghty has, unsurprisingly, kept the faith with last year’s hero who is one of three JP McManus runners. I think it is very interesting that stable jockey number 2, Mark Walsh, has decided to ride More Of That, with Aidan Coleman taking over on Minella Rocco.

Minella Rocco is currently an 11/2 shot, while More Of That can be backed at 22/1. Both horses are trained by Jonjo O’Neill, and I think More Of That could be worth chancing each way. He won easily the last time he raced on soft ground, and his brother Eastlake won on heavy. Usually Beneficial horses are best on a decent surface, but that isn’t always the case. He ran a nice race here last time in the Lexus and, if the likely testing ground brings about some improvement, he could reward each way support at 22/1.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: MORE OF THAT @ 22/1 E/W

I have no strong opinion on the remaining races, but I would recommend keeping an eye out for one in the bumper at Exeter. The Gardners love to have winners at their local track, and they have an extremely well bred filly in the finale. The Imitation Game is by Yeats, a top class sire, and she is out of a bumper winning half sister to Best Mate. As pedigrees go, it would be hard to find better, and keep an eye out for any market moves (she is currently 50/1). This yard pulled off a massive coup with Coeur Blimey in a bumper last season, and when they put their money down they rarely leave it behind.