Thursday, 30 April 2015

Shabra Overpriced In Opener

With the ground now officially given as yielding after plenty of rain yesterday, and with more showers forecast before the start of racing today, it is important to know that the horse you are backing enjoys getting their toe in. Usually in these big field handicap hurdles I look for unexposed well bred types, who are racing on a different surface or over a new trip for the first time. However, after seeing Shamiran win in the handicap hurdle yesterday, I am taking a different approach today.
The characteristics I think that will be important today are toughness, experience in big fields and a liking for soft ground.One horse that ticks all those boxes for me, and is available at a big price, is Shabras Bertolini.
Trained by Anthony McCann, who has taken over from the late Oliver Brady, this horse looks well exposed at first glance, having already had 29 runs over hurdles. However, I believe there is cause for optimism that he can still improve. After all, he is still only a 6yo, and there have been signs that the penny has dropped this last year, as his four wins (the second was over course and distance) show. His last win in particular was very impressive, where he raced prominently and jumped well, before showing a good attitude in repelling the final challenger. Interestingly Walk To Freedom was 11 lengths behind him that day in fifth, and while he obviously didn't show his true colours on the day, it was still an authoritative performance by Shabras Bertolini.
His next run, in a higher class handicap at Leopardstown was admittedly poor, but I am willing to excuse him that run as a couple of poor jumps early on put paid to his chances. Subsequently, after a mini break, he ran a cracker in mid April, gaining the best RPR of his career, in finishing 2nd in a novice event, on ground that would have been plenty quick enough, to I Knew Well, owned by JP McManus and in the 'could be anything' bracket. He was given another outing nine days ago, stepped up in trip, but was always out the back and never figured. It looked to me like they wanted to mind his handicap mark for another day, as he was held up and also was racing over a trip that clearly doesn't suit.The jockey booking tempers my enthusiasm slightly, but he has ridden a couple of winners so I am giving him the benefit of the doubt.  Hopefully he can run a big race today, and at the current odds of 40/1 Shabras Bertolini certainly looks worthy of a little each way support.

Selection: Shabras Bertolini 40/1(sporting bet) e/w

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Festival Fancy For Wednesday

An exciting days action on Tuesday, with Douvan probably the most impressive performer on show. Mallowney looked the winner all over in the big one until his run flattened out in the closing stages. That's twice in a row now and I wonder was he over the top after a long, hard but very successful  season. Felix Yonger was a worthy winner, but major kudos has to go to Baily Green who produced a career best performance in finishing a gallant second. Don Poli was a huge let down for favourite backers, but I have little sympathy for those steaming in at silly prices, especially when Gigginstown are running three in a five runner race. How often do we see the second and third strings winning? I don't have the stats at hand but i'm sure they would make for interesting reading.
Wednesday sees another three Grade 1s as well as a couple of competitive handicaps. There is one horse in particular that has caught my eye, and it goes in the opener.

3.40 Punchestown Handicap Hurdle 2m4f

There will be 25 horses going to post in this race, and as ever there are many with claims. The one I think has a right chance at a decent price is Seskinane. This lightly raced 9 year old has some serious form in the book. First past the post against On His Own, beating him 8l, but disqualified to 2nd for dangerous riding. Only 12l or so behind Don Poli in February 2014 while conceding 3lbs. He was given an RPR of 136 for that run. Ran to a similar level behind Rule The World too, beaten only 3l even if he was getting alomst two stone from the winner. This sort of form is a cut above anything else on offer in this race. He only made his handicap debut at Leopardstown last Christmas, running a respectable race over 3m, a trip that stretches him,off a mark of 126.
His next run came at Fairyhouse, off a  reduced mark of 123, after being freshened up with a 99 day break, and this is the run that sparked my interest. He travelled well up to about half a mile from home, settled in about 9th or 10th place, before the jockey started pushing. He made a sweeping move around the outside, showing a neat turn of foot and moved up into about third jumping two out. He failed to sustain his effort up the home straight and came home in fifth. I think this was a very encouraging run, and the further drop in trip tomorrow, combined with better ground, should result in this horse running a big race. A bit of luck is always required in a race like this, but if he gets it he will be there or thereabouts at the rewarding current odds of 25/1 (ladbrokes)

Selection: Seskinane e/w 25/1.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Punchestown Picks

Tomorrow sees the start of the Punchestown festival, the last big meeting of the national hunt season where the creme de la creme of the sport will be on display. Tomorrow there will be three Grade 1 races, and there are a couple of runners that catch the eye and may well be overpriced.

Champion Chase
A quality renewal, with a case to be made for many of them. The two I like the most are Felix Yonger and Mallowney, with a slight prefernce for the latter. These two fought out a thrilling finish at Cork, with Felix prevailing by a nose, and I think it could well be a similar story tomorrow, except that I think Mallowney can reverse the form.
Champagne Fever will probably go off a short priced favourite, but has been too inconsistent this year for me. I fancied him to run a big race with conditions to suit at Aintree last time out, but he ran a lifeless race under an unusual ride from Ruby Walsh, who was far less aggressive than he usually is on the grey. I am hoping he goes out all guns blazing tomorrow, and ensures it is a truly run race. The quicker the pace the more it will suit Mallowney, who is a very strong traveller and also Felix Yonger, who will need every yard of the 2 miles to get his head in front as stamina is his strong suit. With Davy Russell back in the saddle on Mallowney (three wins and two 2nds from 5 rides) and back on decent ground I can see him lasting home and holding off the late surge from Felix Yonger. At a price Savello could be the one for third if he can brush up on his jumping. Hidden Cyclone is too error prone and reaching for blinkers at this stage of the game smacks of desperation to me.

Selection: 1.Mallowney (7/1) 2. Felix Yonger (8/1) 3. Savello 25/1

Handicap Hurdle
One horse stands out for me in this, and that is Henry De Bromhead's Sizing Codelco, currently priced up at 16/1. On the face of it this horse has probably been an underachiever during his short career, and he disappointed when sent chasing on his first three runs this season. I was at Punchestown the day he fell, and was impressed with his physique in the parade ring. He really is a fine stamp of a horse, and it is no surprise they tried to go down the chasing route with him.
He ran at the festival last year, the last time he encountered ground better than soft, and he ran probably the best race of his short career in finishing third behind Arctic Fire and Gassin Golf, two horses that have gone on to frank the form in no uncertain terms this season. Rock the World finished 5th, another that has gone on to better things this season.
 Sizing Codelco was given a couple of months off after Christmas, and made a very encouraging return in a handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse on ground that would have been plenty soft enough. That outing should have put him cherry ripe for this, and a repeat of last years run here will see him go very close. His mark of 135 could look very generous by dinner time tomorrow. A few quid each way at 16/1 and it'll hopefully be champagne and caviar on the menu!

Selection: Sizing Codelco 16/1  e/w

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The Bowen Factor To Prove Key For Par

Gold Cup day at Sandown today, and the man everybody will be there to see is AP McCoy, who is having his last ever ride in the Bet365 hurdle, on the fittingly named Box Office. However, while everybody will no doubt be sad to see such a legendary figure call it a day, there is also reason for optimism. For while one of the greats may be bidding farewell to the sport, there are a few young pretenders waiting in the wings eager to take his place at the top, and chief among them is young Sean Bowen, who has taken the game by storm in the last year.
With fifty winners in the bag already, and his claim whittled down to three pounds in no time, this seventeen year old has unfathomable potential. It is no surprise that Paul NIcholls has snapped him up, and the combination could well turn out to be a formidable one.
Today they team up in the big race of the day (well ok probably the second biggest due to the McCoy factor) with Just A Par, a horse that is yet to get his head in front this season. He was a staying on third over 3m at Chepstow last time out, and he required plenty of driving from Bowen, who was riding him for the first time. The way he finished that day suggests this sort of trip will be right up his street, and this is a sentiment shared by his trainer, who has described him as a "thorough stayer". At first glance Unioniste would appear to be the pick of the four Nicholls runners, as he is partnered by the number one stable jockey in Sam Twiston Davies. However, I think that Nicholls will want to make the most of Bowen's claim while he still has it, and that is the reason he is riding Just A Par today. He got to know the horse last time out, and I am willing to bet that the combination of Bowen and the new trip will be enough to see Just A Par go close in a competitive race.

Selection: Just A Par e/w 20/1

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A Couple Of Fancies At Fairyhouse

Today's Irish action comes from Fairyhouse, and there are a couple of horses that have caught my eye. At this time of the season it usually pays to keep an eye out for horses that have been performing badly on soft ground over the winter, but who are either bred for or have form on fast ground. Their poor displays on soft ground usually results in an inflated price, and both selections today fit this profile.
The first horse that I like today is Newsreader, who goes in the 5.25. This is a horse by New Approach, formerly trained by the disgraced doper Mahmood Al Zarooni for Godolphin. He is a half brother to two Group 1 winners (both on good/firm), and while his runs on the flat suggest that he is nowhere near as talented as his two siblings, his return to action at Navan this year was a big eyecatcher. He was bang there two out, until a combination of the hill and soft ground took its toll and he ended up beaten 8l into eighth. Admittedly his next run was disappointing, but it was only a week after the first effort so may have come too soon, and was also on soft ground which wouldn't have been ideal either. Today is his first run in a handicap hurdle on decent ground, and he gets to race off 88. Given his pedigree and his promising handicap debut I think the 25/1 available is great value and this horse is well worth supporting each way in a wide open race. Powers are paying an extra place in this race too, but I would suggest waiting until the first show before backing him with them, as their early prices are usually shorter than their competitors in the races they offer the extra place in.
The other horse that I think will put in an improved display back on decent ground today is Realdealholyfield (what a name by the way!)  who goes in the Beginners chase at 6.55. This horse is having his first run on good ground since finishing an unlucky second on his handicap hurdle debut, getting reeled in close home. He showed a good attitude that day however, and it is no coincidence that he has put in his best displays when the sun is out and the ground is good. I can see McCarthy blazing off in front, and if  the horse has learned enough in the jumping department in his two chases to date he could be very hard to peg back. Available at odds of 11/1, he looks worth supporting in a race that lacks depth.

Selections: 5.25 Newsreader e/w 25/1 (5 places powers)
                   6.55 Realdealholyfield e/w 11/1

Friday, 17 April 2015

Pedigree Pick From Newbury

The fillies maiden at Newbury today is an interesting event, with a lot of regally bred horses taking their chances. The one that stands out on pedigree for me is Chris Wall's filly, Ttainted Love. This daughter of Mastercraftsman is out of  Eve, a useful mare in her own right and a winner of three races herself. She has also produced a listed place horse in Admission, but has yet to see a filly of hers on the racetrack.
However, things start to get interesting when you look into her siblings. She has three black type half sisters. Fading Light (group placed), Birdie (listed winner) and Fickle (also a listed winner). Fading Light and Birdie have both produced multiple winners, but Fickle had a filly called Farhan, who was an excellent racehorse, but an even better mare as she went on to produce the one and only Camelot. From a punting perspective it is always difficult in these races, as unless you have a line into the yard it is impossible to know how a horse is working/ expected to run. However, I think at the odds of 20/1 it is worth having a small each way bet on this one solely on the merits of her pedigree. If she even has half the magic that her cousin Camelot possessed she won't be too bad.

Selection. 1.50 New Ttainted Love e/w 16/1

Monday, 13 April 2015

Handicap Blot at Tramore

Monday is not usually a day where you will find the creme de la creme of the equine world in action, and to be brutally honest today is no exception. However, there is one horse that catches my eye at Tramore  from a handicapping perspective, and that is Slygufftou in the 6.20.
 There are a couple of factors that sparked my interest in this horse today. Firstly, ground conditions are set to be quick this evening, with the track set to water in order to maintain good ground. This will be no problem to Slygufftou, who has shown his best form on similar ground conditions. He is also returning from a break, having last run in November, but this is not really a negative as one of his best runs came after a similar layoff, so perhaps he goes best when fresh. 
The biggest reason why I feel this horse is worth supporting is because of the fact he gets to race off a lowly mark of 94, with Brian Hayes taking off another 3lbs for good measure. On his first run under rules, over course and distance on good ground, he was 3 lengths in front of Springfield Grey (who he was giving 3lbs to) and this horse has since won a handicap off 98 and run with credit off higher marks since. Well Tuned was 3 lengths in front of him in this heat and he is now rated 124 after some good placed efforts in his subsequent runs in novice hurdles. 
Admittedly Slygufftou disappointed on his next run, but it was on yielding ground and perhaps came too soon after his good debut effort. After being freshened up he finished 2nd over a trip on the sharp side in Wexford, again on good ground, staying on well in the closing stages to be beaten just over 4 lengths by a horse now rated 114. 
However, probably the most impressive run came on ground softer than ideal in a maiden hurdle at Tipperary , when he was beaten less than 12 lengths into 5th behind Couleur France, who has since gone on to be 3rd in  Grade 2. He was also only 3 lengths behind Brandon Hill, who has since gone on to win a novice and a handicap for Tom Lacey in England, the latter off a mark of 122. 
All of these bits and pieces of form suggest to me that Slygufftou is extremely well handicapped off 94, and as a result looks a massive price in a race that looks to be lacking any real strength in depth. His trainer has shown down through the years he is more than capable of readying one, and at a price of 16/1 he looks well worth an each way interest this evening. 

Selection: Slygufftou 6.20 Tramore 16/1 e/w

Friday, 10 April 2015

Grand National Day Fancies

Not too bad a day for us yesterday, with Cyrus Darius winning at 12/1 and Rathlin grabbing 3rd at 28/1, ensuring a modest profit on the day. The big one tomorrow, with 39 runners standing their ground, and it should be as unpredictable as ever. I will go through the race in more detail below, and you will be glad to know I fancy a couple at silly prices. But first up is the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle, and there is an Irish horse in this that really catches the eye.

Race 1

Nichols Canyon and Parlour Games head the betting in this race, but they both come here on the back of a hard race at Cheltenham, finishing 2nd and 3rd behind Windsor Park. I will be giving both of these a wide berth however and will be supporting Sub Lieutenant for Sandra Hughes and Gigginstown. This lad is no doubt seen as a chaser in the making as he is a half brother to Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere. However, he has proven to be no slouch over hurdles, and it will not be a surprise to me if his trainer's patience in skipping Cheltenham is rewarded. He will love the good ground, stamina is assured and at a price of 16/1 looks to represent superb value against the two overbet market leaders.

Selection: Sub Lieutenant 16/1 e/w

Race 2

The one for me in this heat is Henry De Bromheads promising young chaser Sizing Granite, who will be partnered by the excellent Johnny Burke. He has improved hugely this season, and ran out a comfortable winner on his last two starts, claiming the notable scalp of Blood Cotil on the first occasion. Both these wins were on heavy ground, but he is by Milan, and his half brother won twice on firm ground so he should relish underfoot conditions. He looks to be great value at 6/1 and can account for Gods Own in another win for Ireland.

Selection: Sizing Granite 6/1

Race 3

This is all about Cole Harden, who made mincemeat of some of these rivals in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham. He is currently priced up at 11/4, second favourite behind Zarkandar. This has me scratching my head, as I can see no reason why Zarkandar can reverse the form. He is a horse I don't have much time for to be honest, and his attitude has looked suspect on more than one occasion. Cole Harden should be wining this easily if he shows up in the same form as he was in at the festival, and is worth an interest at 11/4. Of the remainder Un Temps Pour Atout looks the most viable alternative if Cole Harden has an off day.

Selections: Cole Harden 11/4, Un Temps Pour Atout (reverse forecast)

Race 4

A pretty unoriginal choice admittedly, but I just can't see past Buywise for this contest. He stayed on very well last time out at Cheltenham, and stepping back up to 3m will definitely suit, the ground will hold no fears, and if Buywise runs his usual solid race I can see him winning this quite easily.

Selection: Buywise 9/4

Race 5 The Grand National

Well where does one start. An absolute nightmare of a race for punters to solve at the best of times, but this years heat seems particularly open. There are a couple that stand out for me.
Night In Milan is a horse that has crept in under the radar to this race. It has been his target for a long time, and as a spectacular jumper it is no surprise that connections have decided to go down the Aintree route. This time last year he absolutely hosed up in the Grimthorpe off a mark of 136 and he races tomorrow off a mark just 10lb higher. He has been kept ticking over this year with a string of consistent displays, and should be well capable of getting involved off his mark once his stamina holds out. He jumps well, likes to be up with the pace and relishes decent ground and at a price of 25/1 he looks worth an each way interest.
Dolatulo is another horse that might outrun his odds in this contest. He has previous experience over the fences, having finished a creditable 8th in the Grand Sefton earlier this year, a run he followed up with an impressive win over 3m+ at Wetherby. He has been kept ticking over with a couple of spins over hurdles since then (trainer thinks variety is key with him) and no doubt he will be cherry ripe for the big one. His trainer thinks 148 is a fair mark, I think he can stay and with a completion already under his belt over these unique fences he can run a big race at 66/1.

Selections: Night In Milan 25/1 e/w Dolatulo 66/1 e/w

Race 6

The Game Changer looks the one to be interested in here, He was fancied to put up a bold show at Cheltenham, but overnight rain scuppered his chance and he finished 8th, but crucially did not have a hard race. Ground conditions will be much more to his liking today, and with young Dempsey claiming a valuable 5lbs this fella should be there or thereabouts at the business end of this competitive contest.

Selection: The Game Changer 10/1 e/w

Race 7

No strong opinion here. Maybe Pomme can run well at a big price for the on fire Nigel Hawke yard.

Aintree Friday

After a good start yesterday with Clarcam things went to pot very quickly, and my luck was summed up with the fall of Marinero at the final fence in the last race when having every chance. Hopefully today's selections enjoy better fortune.

Race 1

The horse that makes most appeal to me in this race is Jenny Candlish's Party Rock. This fella went on  a winning spree in 2013, before going into the doldrums. However, he returned to form in this race last year, falling when having every chance at the 2nd last. He ran off a mark of 135 that day, and with Ring's claim can race off 3lb lower this year. At the current price of 33/1 it could be worth having a small e/w interest. His best form has come at Aintree too.

Selection: Party Rock e/w 33/1

Race 2

Cyrus Darius is a horse held in high regard by his shrewd handler Malcom Jefferson and he takes a big step up in class today after dotting up in two novice events. His dam is related to the classy flat performer Smokey Oakey, and I was very taken with the manner of his victories in those hurdles. I think he can take the step up in class in his stride and run a big race today at the rewarding odds of 12/1.

Selection: Cyrus Darius  12/1 ew

Race 3

Rawnaq did this blogger proud with an outstanding display at Cheltenham where a last fence blunder possibly cost him the race. I will be supporting him again today. His trainer thinks the world of him and hopefully he runs in to a place at least for the small Meath operator. He has to improve, no doubt, but he is lightly raced over fences and I think there could be more to come.

Selection: Rawnaq 18/1 e/w

Race 4

Champagne Fever a confident selection here, assuming he is fully ready to go. I can see him jumping this lot into submission and running out a comfortable winner. With doubts about so many of his rivals I think the 7/2 currently available is superb value.

Selection: Champagne Fever 7/2 (nap)

Race 5

A battle charge where the winner looks difficult to find. One that could outrun his odds is Rathlin at 28/1. I wouldn't be re-mortgaging the house to lump on though. In a race like this anything can happen!

Selection: Rathlin e/w 28/1

Race 6

I think Ordo Ab Chao can run well here. Wasn't disgraced at Cheltenham, just seemed to get outpaced over 2m5f. The step up to 3 miles should be ideal, and the current price of 10/1 loooks worth snapping up.

Selection: Ordo Ab Chao 10/1 e/w

Race 7

No strong opinion here. Just watch and enjoy!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Aintree Fancies

The Grand National Festival at Aintree is one of my favourite meetings. I was lucky enough to have attended the 2007 edition, when my cousins horse, Dun Doire, was among the ante-post favourites. However on the day the ground was quick, and this put paid to his chance and he was pulled up. The experience was still brilliant though, and the atmosphere was something else. I would strongly recommend it to any racing fan who hasn't managed to get there yet.
From a punting point of view this is a meeting where you usually need a horse that likes it quick underfoot. Also, it usually pays to avoid horses that have had hard races at Cheltenham, and whilst there are exceptions to this rule it is usually worth opposing them, as they are invariably very short prices and as a result there can be value found elsewhere. Below is my take on the first days action.

Race 1-Grade 1 Novice Chase

This race is more or less a rerun of the Arkle, minus Un De Sceaux and over four furlongs further, and the betting more or less reflects the positions they filled behind the ultra impressive winner, with the third home Josses Hill currently edging out  the fourth Vibrato Valtat for favouritism. Clarcam and Three Kingdoms are next in the market, and of the four I would see Clarcam as the value at a current price of 13/2. He was not given a hard time once the game was up in the Arkle, and he has the assistance of Ruby Walsh in the saddle. His defeat of Plinth proves he handles fast ground and gets the trip and he is a confident selection to bring the prize back to Ireland.

Selection: Clarcam  13/2

Race 2 -Juvenile Hurdle

Hargam looks the obvious one in this. However, while he is the most likely winner one at a price that might put it up to him is Intense Tango from the Karl Burke yard. Burke is in scintillating form at the moment, and this horse skipped Cheltenham in order to be in prime condition for this event. Ground conditions are perfect for him, and he is currently available at 14/1 with Paddy Power. If Hargam doesn't show up in peak condition I think Intense Tango has an excellent chance of capitalising and is worth supporting each way.

Selection: Intense Tango e/w 14/1

Race 3- Betfred Bowl Chase

A tricky puzzle to solve, with a case to be made for many of the participants. From a value perspective though the 8/1 currently available about Menorah looks too good to turn down. Silvinaco Conti had a hard race at Cheltenham and while he should be winning this on the figures, it doesn't always work out that way. Menorah proved he retained all of his old ability with a superb win in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, before chasing home Silvinaco Conti on his next outing in the Betfair at Haydock. Crucially though Menorah has been freshened up for this having skipped Cheltenham, and I believe he can reverse that form and go one better than his 2nd place to First Lieutenant in 2013.

Selection: Menorah  8/1

Race 4- Aintree Hurdle

An intriguing renewal, with some class acts taking their chances. Jezki and Arctic Fire renew their rivalry after facing each other in the Champion Hurdle. The horse I like in this however is another one that skipped the festival, Blue Heron for the Skeltons. This horse has shaped as if 2m 4f would be ideal on a number of occasions this season, and this will be his first go at the trip this year. I think it will bring the best out of him, and at a price of 14/1 I think he can run into a place at least.

Selection: Blue Heron e/w 14/1

Race 5- Foxhunter Chase

An absolute minefield of a race and probably one to watch and enjoy rather than having a bet. If pushed my advice would be to have a small few quid each way on Neverownup for last years Grand National hero the good Dr. Richard Newland. Priced up at 33/1 this horse was less than 2l behind Big Fella Thanks (priced up at 7/1) when they met earlier this season on ground that would have been a lot softer than ideal for the Newland horse. Neverownup flopped on his next outing, but that was over 2 miles, and back up in trip and on decent ground he can make his presence felt.

Selection: Neverownup e/w 33/1

Race 6- Red Rum Chase

Ned Buntline is the one for me in this race. Very lightly raced, arguably unlucky in the finale at Cheltenham and has the assistance of the champ again in the saddle. He gets to race off the same mark again here, and I believe the easier track and better ground will suit him down to the ground. Ted Veale is one to watch in the betting. Back into a handicap and back on better ground he could be the biggest danger and is worth a saver at 12/1.

Selections: Ned Buntline 7/1, Ted Veale 12/1 e/w.

Race 7- Injured Jockeys Handicap Hurdle

Marinero is the one that looks way overpriced in this race. I fancied him to run well at Cheltenham but he was badly hampered and had no chance after. He is by Presenting and his dam is by Oscar so good ground should hold no fears. He shaped well stepped up to 18f at Fairyhouse and was dropped in trip on his next two runs. He had a valid excuse at Cheltenham and it would be no surprise to me to see him running a big race at odds of 20/1.

Selection: Marinero e/w 20/1.