Sunday, 27 March 2016

Fairyhouse Grand National Day Selections

It is always great to get a festival off to a good start on the opening day, and though Enzani was a let down in the first race Pakman made up for it with an excellent 3rd advised at 20/1 in the 2nd race. Jer's Girl went in for us again (adv 4/1) and her win was the most impressive performance of the day in my opinion. I was very worried when I saw the tactics but holding her up worked a treat and she sauntered to a commanding victory. 

Acapella Bourgeois (adv 13/2) then went on and won in an absolute thriller and he stuck his neck out when it really mattered most. The dream is still alive for his connections and they look to have a serious horse on their hands. Blair Perrone ran a cracking race to be 3rd but unfortunately non runners meant only 2 places got paid so we missed out on each way money. He was slightly unlucky too as he was done no favours by the loose horse and with a clearer run he might have got closer. Balnagon Boy ran a good race but he was obviously just a little short on fitness. He jumped really well though and Tom Gibney will be encouraged by that at least. 

Monday is the big day of the Easter Festival at Fairyhouse and I had my first ever experience of racing at the County Meath track. It was back in the days when there was a large common area you could go to free of charge, and there was plenty of bookies pitched there plying their trade. The first year I went was when Flashing Steel carried 12st+ to victory for Charlie Haughey and having backed him it was no surprise I was instantly hooked on racing. It is a race I look forward to every year and hopefully we can find the winner tomorrow. 


Rashaan was really impressive when winning his Grade 3 here back in November but he was seemingly found out when upped in Grade at Leopardstown. However, the ground was absolutely boottomless for those two runs at grade 2 and grade 1 level and I think the return to less testing ground will work in his favour. Jer's Girl is unlikely to run after her heroics here on Sunday and I think Rashaan looks an absolutely massive price at 9/1 in this field. I think he is going to bounce back and deliver on the huge promise he  showed when slamming Missy Tata here back in November. 



Eight will go to post for this competitive little grade 2 heat and a case can be made for most of them. The one I like at a price is Jett for Jessie Harrington and Robbie Power. I am a sucker for a nice pedigree and this fella's dam has produced Jenari, Jetson, Jered and Champion hurdle hero Jezki. Jett is the latest to come off the production line and while he hasn't looked anything too special in bumpers he showed huge improvement to get off the mark at the first time of asking over timber last time in a maiden at Leopardstown (20f soft).

The form of his maiden win has worked out very well and the 4th home that day, Stowaway Shark, has since gone on to win, while the second home Space Cadet has form with the likes of Acapella Bourgeois and Grade 2 winner Up For Review. Jett is entitled to improve for what was his first run over timber and though he is in deeper here he has the form and the pedigree to suggest he belongs at this higher level. The drop in trip should be fine and he has every chance of becoming the 5th in his family to earn some black type over jumps. 



This race has been targeted by shrewd Meath handler Tony Martin in recent seasons and he has won 5 of the last 10 runnings. His entry Mydor is entitled to automatic respect coming from those quarters but I like the look of another local horse who put in a massively eye catching run on his last outing. Aengus is a 6yo son of Robin Des Champs in the care of Noel Meade and this bumper and maiden winner bounced back from a spell in the doldrums with a cracking run behind Total Recall at Naas last time (19f soft). 

That was a hugely encouraging run from the gelding and the way he finished off his race after getting outpaced as the race hotted up would suggest that the extra couple of furlongs here should suit him well. He was raised 2lb to a mark of 118 for that last run, but the extra distance and return to the track where he won his bumper (18f soft) should bring about another jolt of improvement. With useful 5lb claimer Jonathan Moore on board he can hopefully reward each way support at odds of 14/1. 



I have no real strong opinion on this race. Dedigout would be conceding a lot more weight to most of these if it was a handicap and Tony Martin's horses are starting to finally come into form. He ought to come on massively for his seasonal reappearance last month and this former Grade 1 winner is a token choice to land the 5th Grade 2 of his career at a track where he has form figures of 12251. 



This looks to be a high quality renewal of the Grand National this season and both Cause of Causes amd Mala Beach are the class acts of the race. However, it would take a monumental effort for the former to come out and win here after his heroics at Cheltenham and the fact remains that no horse has carried more than 11st to victory since Commanche Court back in 2001. 

One horse that has long been talked about as a Grand National type by his trainer is Jarob for Andrew Lynch, and he deserves a change in fortune after the unfortunate incident at the start with Zabana in Cheltenham. Jarob's owner Chris Jones also runs Mala Beach and Futuramic, but history would suggest that Mala Beach will struggle to carry his welter burden to victory, and once the ground doesn't turn bottomless I think Jarob could run a massive race for Jones.

He will be ridden by Luke Dempsey, who has had a stellar season for Gordon Elliott, and his mark of 130 sees him with a lovely racing weight of just 10st 2lbs. His most recent win over timber came over hurdles off the same mark so he is potentially well in back over fences. He won his chase on good ground at Navan (20f), earning his mark of 130, and he was kept to hurdles afterwards to presumably mind his chase mark for this race. 

He looks certain to stay, the decent ground will be to his liking and hopefully his jumping will stand up to the test over this marathon trip of 3m 5f. I think his price of 33/1 is more than generous and if the rain stays away for the next 24 hours or so I think he is capable of running a huge race for his local yard. 


As I have no strong fancies for the remaining races that is it for day 2. Hopefully all the horses and jockeys come back safe after the big one, and if we can find a winner or two throughout the day I'll be happy. 

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Fairyhouse Easter Festival Fancies Day 1

With memories of Cheltenham still fresh in the mind we are in for a few more super days of national hunt racing in County Meath this Easter weekend. The Grand National is the main event on Easter Monday and with the ground likely to ease significantly it will bring all the mudlarks into the equation.

Earlier on today Midnight Jazz rewarded each way support for us at Haydock with a decent 2nd, though it was disappointing that she couldn't get a bit closer to the winner. After a couple of places recently I feel we are due a winner, and hopefully it will come at Fairyhouse tomorrow. Below are my thoughts for Day 1 of what should be a fantastic few days of racing.


A pretty modest affair to get proceedings under way and it is 3/1 the field with Tayto Park for Tony Martin at the head of the market. closely followed by Beau Mome for Mullins/Ricci/Walsh. Neither of those have looked anything special so far in their short careers and it wouldn't be the biggest surprise to see one at juicier odds making the frame.

At 14/1 Enzani is a very interesting runner for John McConnell and this well bred 5yo son of Cape Cross is having only his second start over timber. The deteriorating ground should hold no fears as he ran a lovely race on his flat debut at Navan (13f soft), staying on well for 4th up the hill. He put in a massively eye catching run at Dundalk at a huge price (10.5f) on his penultimate start, and to say he was handled tenderly is a huge understatement. He stayed on really well in the home straight to grab 4th, and he was sent off a well backed favourite upped to 12f at the same venue next time.

He couldn't justify support, finishing 4th again and doing all his best work late on, and though his backers did their money he was far from disgraced and he again showed that he has a fair bit of ability. He is bred to be a good horse and his half sister Eshera won an 8f listed race last season for Dermot Weld. Enzani looks a touch overpriced at 14/1 given the limitations of the opposition, and it would be no surprise to see a market move for him. He is the each way suggestion in a maiden that won't take a whole lot of winning.



This looks a pretty hot handicap and a case can be made for any amount of them. Next Bend for Thomas Gibney was mightily impressive when breaking his duck back in a maiden last time and kept to the same trip and similar ground he could run a big race. However, the one I fancy here is Pakman, for shrewd Westmeath handler Adrian Murray.

I was at Fairyhouse the day he was 3rd back in November at 100/1 and he really looked a nice type in the parade ring. He tried to make all that day on his first run back of the season, and he only faded after jumping the last. He ran to a similar level of form on his next three runs, all in maidens, and he makes his handicap debut off a mark of 112.

Quality claimer Ger Fox will take off a very handy 3lb, and  the return to Fairyhouse has to be seen as a positive given his excellent run here back in November. His half brother Hurricane Alley won two hurdle races on heavy ground and I think this fella has a great chance of getting off the mark tomorrow. He is the each way suggestion at odds of 20/1 and hopefully he makes a bold bid from the front in a wide open race.



Jer's Girl is a filly that did us a big favour when landing a monster gamble on her first start over hurdles at Limerick (16f soft) and she showed that was no fluke by landing a Listed heat at Aintree (17f soft) by 10L on her next run. She came within a whisker of beating subsequent Triumph Hurdle runner up Apple's Jade on her first run in Grade 2 company at Leopardstown at Xmas (16f heavy) and she surely would have won with a better jump at the last.

She wasn't quite as good when she stepped into Grade 1 company for the first time at Leopardstown last time out, but that run was too bad to be true and she is a better filly than she showed that day. JP McManus has got the chequebook out and added Jer's Girl to his army of horses, and Gavin Cromwell will be delighted that the rain has arrived as this daughter of Jeremy loves to get her toe in. Barry Geraghty rides her for the first time, but she is an uncomplicated type who loves to get on with things out in front so he shouldn't have too many problems. Gavin Cromwell would love to get a win with his first runner for JP and at odds of 4/1 I think she has every chance of delivering the goods.



Acapella Bourgeois is highly rated by connections and he is expected to run a big race tomorrow for Sandra Hughes. This 6yo son of Network has been a revelation this season and he built on the promise of his seasonal return here with a commanding 6L maiden hurdle win at Leopardstown. The bubble looked like it had been burst when he could only finish 2nd next time on his first run in a Grade 2, but he showed that was merely a blip with a decisive 5L win in another Grade 2 at Thurles last month.

He is another that will appreciate all the rain that is falling around these parts and the softer it is the more it will help his chances. Just like Jer's Girl he is another uncomplicated type and he will look to gallop them into submission from the front. If Burke is allowed to dictate the tempo and get an easy lead it could spell trouble for his rivals, and at odds of 13/2 he should go very close in a Grade 2 that lacks strength in depth.



The feature race of the opening day looks a cracking contest on paper and it is no surprise to see Michael O'Leary firing three bullets in his attempt to win the race he sponsors. However, Tony Martin's horses have been showing clear signs of hitting form in the last couple of weeks and I think Blair Perrone is a massive price at 25/1.

This 7yo son of Rudimentary has yet to get his head in front over fences but he has shown some very decent form in defeat. He won two hurdle races, beating Silver Concorde in a maiden at Leopardstown (20f soft) and also lowering the colours of Domesday Book in a novice hurdle at Gowran (16f yielding/soft). He found Grade 1 and 2 company too hot on his last two runs over timber but he has shown that he can cut it at this level over the bigger obstacles.

He was narrowly beaten by Killultagh Vic on his penultimate run, but in fairness he was flattered to get so close given that horse's shuddering mistake at the last. Previous to that effort he chased home the luckless Zabana (19f heavy) at Leopardstown and the way he stayed on that day would suggest that 20f could prove to be his optimum trip. His last run was too bad to be true behind Outlander and it could have come a bit too soon after his previous run. I think he has a real chance of closing the gap to that rival and at odds of 25/1 Blair Perrone is the each way selection.



Balnagon Boy is another horse that regular readers of this blog will be familiar with and this handsome 8yo son of Hernando loves it around here. His three runs at the track have yielded form figures of 112 and his sole defeat came over 20f last time behind Marlbrook back in January.

His previous wins here have come over 16f and he loves to get his toe in, so all the rain that is falling will be a welcome sight to connections. He drops back to 17f after two runs at 20f on his last two starts and he has been handed a mark of 126 for his chase handicap debut. Topper Thornton, who was over 30L behind Balnagon the day of his win here, has since won a handicap chase easily off 116 and the 2nd home was subsequently 2nd in a Listed Chase.

Young Jonathan Moore has been booked for the ride and he has shown that he is well worth his valuable 5lb claim with some composed rides this season. The return to Fairyhouse and the drop in trip are huge positives for Balnagon Boy and he has had a nice little break so he will be fresh and ready to go. Tom Gibney sent out Next Bend to win last week so his horses are coming back to form, and at odds of 6/1 I think Balnagon Boy has a great chance of going very close at a track he clearly loves.



I have no strong opinion on this race as there is a host of unraced horses and only the trainers and owners know how they have been working at home. Boreham Bill is an interesting English raider from the Ben Pauling yard and this 4yo son of Tikkanen has plenty of jumps winners in his pedigree. Pauling has sent out quite a few bumper winners this season and at odds of 14/1 Boreham Bill is a token each way selection in a race where literally any horse could win.


Friday, 25 March 2016

Saturday's Selection

Shalaman never landed a blow at Lingfield for us and I was pretty worried to see absolutely no support for him in the markets in the morning. He was out the back early and never looked like getting involved. However, he could be dropped another couple of pounds for that run and if he is dropped back in trip he is still capable of winning a nice race for Irish trainer David Marnane.

Tomorrow's selection goes in the opening mares handicap race at 1.25 in Haydock and this 6yo daughter of Midnight Legend looks massively overpriced at 14/1. Midnight Jazz is in the care of Ben Case, whose big Cheltenham hope Croco Bay suffered a nasty fall in the Grand Annual, and he will be hoping for better luck tomorrow with this admirably consistent mare. She is 4 from 14 under rules, placing on 5 other occasions.

She has been running well this year and her three runs since October have yielded form figures of 342. She kicked off her season in a Listed mares heat at Wetherby (2m soft) and on ground that was a lot more testing than ideal she picked up some place money and all important black type in third. She was then returned to handicap company in a decent race at Cheltenham (20.5f soft) and she again ran a cracker in 4th off 129, just over 4L behind the useful Lily Waugh.

Last time at Exeter (18.5f ) she again found one too good in the shape of Hannahs Princess and she was beaten 6L in 2nd, miles clear of the rest. While that record would suggest that she finds it hard to get her head in front, it is important to remember that his mare is a good ground horse. Okay, she has won on soft before, but she is seen to best effect when there is good in the ground description and she gets that for the first time this season at Haydock tomorrow.

She will have the assistance of Kielan Woods in the saddle and he has had an excellent year so his confidence should be high. She is the third highest rated in the field so she has to concede weight to most of her rivals, but I think she has the potential to be better than her current mark of 129 and at odds of 14/1 I think she has a super chance of hitting the frame.


Thursday, 24 March 2016

Shalaman Looks Overpriced On Return To Lingfield

Dominium ran a cracking race for us at Kempton on Tuesday and he was a whisker away from getting the win at 16/1. After breaking well he raced in a more prominent position than usual, and he travelled best of all 2f out as he moved to the inside to make his effort. However, he probably got there just a bit too soon and he came out third best in an exciting blanket finish. His mark will likely go back up a pound or two after that effort and that could scupper his chances of winning for a few runs, but I am sure he will pop up again at some stage for Jeremy Gask later this year.

After studying the race line ups for the big money card at Lingfield on Good Friday only one horse really jumps off the page as being criminally overpriced. As an aside I will be looking forward to seeing Giles Bravery's super mare Subtle Knife taking her chance in the opener, though on the figures she has an awful lot to find and she will be doing very well to pick up some place money.

The horse that I reckon is overpriced at 33/1 is Shalaman, a 7yo son of Oratorio who is now in the care of David Marnane. He turned up here last year when he was trained by Matthew Smith and he ran an absolute cracker in the Middle Distance race (10f) when he was 4th, just a length behind Grendisar who was 3rd. Grendisar is a hot favourite for that race this year and Shalaman was closing on the leaders all the way to the line after being trapped out wide and outpaced coming into the last couple of furlongs.

It is no surprise to see connections stepping him up in trip on his return to Lingfield and he showed on his penultimate run at Dundalk (16f), when 2nd to Mandatario, that he gets the trip. He was a bit keen early on in that 4 runner race, which probably cost him the win, but it will likely be a truer gallop in the Marathon at Lingfield and that will suit this strong traveller. His official rating of 99 means he only has 3 or 4lbs to find with the best of these and he looks a huge price at 33/1. After his excellent effort here last year this has likely been the target, and he is worth of a couple of quid each way on what should be an appetising afternoon of racing on Good Friday.


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Don't Discount Dominium At Kempton

Curraghmore Girl ran poorly at Downpatrick although it was a very strange race. Davy Russell poached an early lead and he judged the ride perfectly to last home and claim the win. Curraghmore Girl's jumping fell apart as she tried to close and she was well beaten at the finish. I wouldn't write her off yet though and she could pop up in a poor race at Fairyhouse or Navan.

Tomorrow night I fancy a horse that goes on the all weather at Kempton in the 8.15 and this 9yo son of E Dubai has been a fine servant to connections, winning 6 races during his career, including two over course and distance, and going close on plenty of other occasions. His last win came at Chelmsford back in September off a mark of 78 and his revised mark of 81 was beyond him in a few runs afterwards.

However, he showed clear signs of life on his penultimate run back in December at Lingfield dropped back down to a mark of 77 when he finished a close up 4th. It was an even better run next time off the same mark at Wolverhampton when he was denied a clear run in the home straight before finishing well, again for 4th. His running style means he needs a bit of luck and the gaps to come at the right time, but if he gets the rub of the green tomorrow and a strong pace to aim at (plenty of early pace in the field on paper) he can go close kept to the same mark.

Another positive is that he has been given a nice 68 day break since his last run and he has a history of running well after being freshened up. The blinkers that have been worn on his last 4 wins have been retained and Martin Lane, who was 6/42 for trainer Jeremy Gask last season, comes in for the ride. Gask's only other runner in the last 14 days finished a close 2nd here last week so his yard's well being is not in question. Dominium looks a huge price at 16/1 and he is well worth a few quid each way in a pretty open handicap.


Saturday, 19 March 2016

Girl Worth Chancing On Handicap Debut At Downpatrick

Sizing Coal was run off his feet at Uttoxeter earlier and he just couldn't handle the scorching early pace set by the front runners. A bad mistake four out put paid to his chances and he was pulled up. It is too soon to write him off though and he has a nice staying handicap in him, it just wasn't meant to be today.

Things took a turn for the better later on though as When In Roam stormed to victory in the 5.20. The odds of 14/1 were snapped up pretty sharpish and she was sent off a well backed 8/1 shot. She tracked the Irish horse throughout, well ahead of the rest of the field, and in the final half mile her stamina kicked in and Davey Crosse drove her out for a comfortable victory. After a shocking run for us our luck has turned, and hopefully the good run can continue with Sunday's selection at Downpatrick.

Curraghmore Girl makes her handicap debut for shrewd County Meath handler Gillian Callaghan, and she has been handed a mark of just 87 after three moderate runs in beginner chases at trips ranging from 16f to 24f, all on bottomless ground. She caught my eye on her penultimate run at Thurles (24f heavy) far from knocked about in 3rd and jumping very nicely at her own pace. She has already won a point to point and this 6yo daughter of Darsi could be set for a much better run tomorrow.

Her sire has a 14% strike rate on good ground and her point win came on yielding, her only time to encounter ground better than soft. Her dam was a point to point winner and, most interestingly of all, her best run under rules came when she was a close second here over 22f on good ground. Robbie Power has ridden her on her last couple of outings and he keeps the ride tomorrow, and she will get good to yielding ground for the first time in her career. Waltz Legend beat her in a point on heavy ground by 8L, but that was off level weights and Curraghmore Girl gets 7lb from her tomorrow.

She should get a lot closer to Waltz Legend on the figures, and on decent ground she could well turn the form around completely. She is 4 years younger than that rival too, so she has a lot more scope for improvement in comparison to that 10yo mare. I think she looks overpriced at 12/1 and hopefully she can reward each way support in a race that looks there for the taking.


Cheltenham Reflections And A Saturday Selection

Well what a week that was! From Sprinter Sacre's fairytale success to Vautour putting on a performance for the ages and the emergence of some potenitial superstars in Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag, I think it is safe to say it was a superb festival. 

My personal highlight was Empire Of Dirt (for obvious reasons!) and the way that Don Cossack finally shut up the doubters in the Gold Cup was another highlight of the week. Ivanovich Gorbatov also came in for us yesterday but as for Modus, God only knows what has happened to him since leaving Robert Stephens and he ran an absolute stinker. I was gutted to see Croco Bay fall as he was my biggest fancy of the week, but you can't win them all as they say, and it is just 360 odd more sleeps until it starts all over again. 


First of all I would like to pass on a positive message for Sizing Coal in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxter. This fella was 3rd in the Irish equivalent at Fairyhouse at huge odds this time last year and he has looked an out and out stayer. Seemingly this 4m2f slog has been the target for him and he looks sure to absolutely relish the extra distance. The only slight worry is the drying ground, but there is still a bit of cut in it so he should be fine. He is a best price of 11/2 and hopefully he runs a big one. 

However, one horse I like at even bigger odds later on at Uttoxeter is another that looks sure to benefit for a step up in trip, and When In Roam looks a big price in the 5.20. This 7yo daughter of Flemensfirth is rated just 80 (down from an initial mark of 92) and she was good enough to win a bumper so she obviously possesses some ability. However, her four runs in maiden and  novices' hurdles showed only the slightest glimmer of promise, and she ran a stinker on her handicap debut at Stratford last May (22f good) when she unseated when well out of contention. 

She made her seasonal comeback on unsuitably heavy ground in another handicap at Uttoxeter (20f heavy) back in December and she managed to pick up some place money in 3rd, though she was admittedly beaten 26L. She stayed on late in the day in that heat, and it was on her next run at Catterick that she really caught my eye (19.5f good to soft). She was ridden by an inexperienced claimer and on the face of it she finished a well beaten 6th, However, she was badly outpaced about half a mile from home and she looked to be becoming detached at the back of the field before staying on past beaten horses in the straight and only finishing around 6L behind the runner up. 

That effort came off a mark of 83 and she has been dropped another 3lb to 80 for today. She will also get to race solely against her own sex for the first time in a handicap. Dave Crosse returns to the saddle and she  gets the step up in trip that her running style and pedigree suggests that she needs (her full brother Go West won at 24f/26f). I think she is definitely worth chancing each way at nice odds in a poor race that won't take much winning. 


Friday, 18 March 2016

Cheltenham Day 4 Selections

When Davy Russell was slung from Zabana's back as the JLT chase was about to get under way I feared the worst for the rest of the day's selections. However, Vautour justified the switch to the Ryanair by winning in spectacular fashion, and all this talk of 'oh, he should have run in the Gold Cup' doesn't wash with me. He simply didn't stay when Cue Card beat him in the King George and Mullins knew what he was at by sending him out for this race. Taquin Du Seuil unfortunately couldn't reward each way support but he wasn't disgraced back in 6th.

Rolling Maul was backed into 25/1 but he chased Flintham early doors who set an unrealistic pace, and he paid the price in the closing stages. Thistlecrack demolished the field in the World Hurdle and Whisper just coudn't go with them. No doubt he will go on to to put on a much better showing at Aintree. The highlight of the day was Empire of Dirt, who hosed up for us at 20/1. I feared he had got there too soon. but once King's Palace came alongside he found a little bit more, and he stormed home up the hill. Below are my selections for Day 4, the final day of a festival that has had it all.


I was extremely taken by Ivanovich Gorbatov on his debut at Leopardstown and what made the performance so impressive was that it came on very heavy ground. He is by Montjeu and nice ground suited him well on the level, and he was good enough to win a maiden (13f good) and a  handicap off 97 (15f good to firm) in his three race flat career.

After his win at Leopardstown he was returned to the same venue for a Grade 1, and he was well beaten back in 4th by Footpad, again on bad ground. It was a puzzling run given that he seemingly showed heavy ground suited on his previous start, and he has accordingly drifted like a barge for this race ever since. I think it is too soon to write him off, and on good ground he could be a totally different horse. Aidan was always likely to give his son a good one to get his training career off to a flying start, and at his current odds of 13/2 he looks a massive price.

For those seeking something at a bigger price Leoncavallo is worth a second look. He was moderate on the flat, rated just 68, but he has improved at a rate of knots for John Ferguson and he is unbeaten when completing. He had the measure of Sceau Royal by a nose when stepped up to listed company at Wetherby (16f soft) after maiden, dual novice and a class 2 condition hurdle wins, All those previous wins had come on decent ground so he did well to beat Sceau Royal on soft. I

He fell on his next start here at the last when still in with every chance, and though Sceau Royal was travelling very well and Leoncavallo was being niggled, who knows what would have happened in the closing stages. However, I think the Ferguson horse will be much better on good ground, and I am amazed to see him over treble the price of the Henderson horse. I think he represents a bit of value in a very competitive race.



With no winner priced shorter than 10/1 since 2006 this is my type of race! However, 24 go to post and as is the case with all of these handicaps you don't just need to pick the right horse, you need a large slice of luck too. Either Nicholls or a Mullins has won it every year bar one since 2008, Tony Martin the only trainer to buck the trend with Ted Veale back in 2013. Any runner from those quarters is entitled to plenty of respect, and both Mullins and Nicholls have three entries apiece.

The horse that I think looks laid out for this race is Modus, formerly trained by Robert Stephens but now with Paul Nicholls and in the famous green and gold of JP McManus. He is a previous course winner (14f soft) and he has was runner up to Moon Racer here in the Champion Bumper (16.5f good) last year. He followed that with an excellent run at Punchestown in 3rd in the Irish equivalent behind Bellshill, beaten 4L, and among the horses behind him that day was Altior, who could only manage 6th, 5L behind Modus.

He hacked up on his hurdle debut in a class 3 novice event at Taunton (19f good), and that run proved his stamina. He won his next start in more workmanlike fashion at Newbury (16.5f soft) under a penalty, but the wheels seemed to come off after that. He was 3rd next time back at Taunton (19f), but the ground was bottomless and that was never going to suit this 6yo son of Motivator. It was heavy again when he was beaten out of sight behind Agrapart at Newbury (16.5f) and I think it makes sense to put a line through those two efforts.

He returns to good ground tomorrow for the first time since that easy Taunton win, and he has been handed a mark of 139 for his handicap debut. I think that could massively underestimate his ability on this sort of ground, and while Geraghty prefers Great Field that doesn't put me off. I have seen enough 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th strings owned by JP win to know that jockey bookings should be taken with a pinch of salt in these handicaps. In any case, Nick Schofield is a more than capable pilot and he is likely to have been riding Modus out at home. He looks a big price at 16/1 and on his bumper form he could be thrown in off 139.



The 'potato race' as it is affectionately known  by Mark 'The Couch' Winstanley, and Barters Hill is well fancied to take this for the home team. It is hard to argue with his form or attitude, and he is a worthy favourite. However, at 4/1 he looks skinny enough in a race that the Irish have won for the last two years.

I have to admit I don't have a strong opinion on this race, but one horse that has caught my eye at a huge price is Balko Des Flos, yet another Gigginstown gelding in the care of Willie Mullins. This 5yo son  of Balko is 3/4 under rules, winning two bumpers and making amends last time for a heavy hurdle debut defeat at Navan (16f heavy), going to Punchestown, beating Robin Thyme by 3L (20f soft).

He beat a horse called Jett on debut, and he went on to win next time out. Robin Thyme, who was 3L behind Balko Des Flos at Punchestown, hacked up by 7L in a maiden at the same venue last month. The form is nothing to write home about in comparison to what some of the other horses in the race have achieved, but his half brother Salut Flo loved good ground and he was also a festival winner for David Pipe, taking the Byrne Plate back in 2012 (21f good).

This fella will get good ground for the first time in his career tomorrow and though he has been overlooked by Bryan Cooper, who prefers the chances of Gangster, David Mullins is a more than able replacement. At his current odds of 33/1 Balko Des Flos is worth a couple of quid each way in the hope that good ground is the making of him.



I have written an in depth preview of the main event for Bettingtools and you can find out who I fancy by clicking here


This is a race I never have a bet on and I won't be changing the habit of a lifetime this year. Vicky Pendleton will be in the spotlight, but I won't be backing her, and if a gun was put to my head and I was forced to have a fiver each way on something I would go with Need To Know for John Paul Brennan at 66/1. It is not a betting heat for me though and I'll just be sitting back and watching.


Mullins has won 3 of the last 5, and he is going for a hat trick after producing Killultagh Vic to win it last year. I have looked at this race for hours on end and I feel as though I am no closer to finding the winner. Gordon Elliott has had a few near misses in recent years in this race, and he has openly admitted he would love to win it.

The one that I think could be potentially well treated off 139 is Whiteout, trained by Willie Mullins and she will be ridden by young Jonathan Moore. This 5yo daughter of Samum is 4/9 over hurdles and she has won on ground ranging from soft to good. She got to within 4L of Identity Thief at Down Royal back in October and he went on to win the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth at Newcastle before finishing a respectable 6th in the Champion Hurdle here on Tuesday.

She also claimed the scalp of Gitane Du Berlais, 5th behind Vroum Vroum Mag here earlier this week, at Punchestown back in November and she is perhaps best excused her last effort when she was well beaten at Leopardstown (20f) as the heavy ground likely didn't suit. She will appreciate the return to decent ground, she should stay the trip and at odds of 33/1 she looks worth a small each way bet in a wide open race.



I have long had a fancy from this race and I think Croco Bay is one of the best each way bets of the festival. You can read why here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Cheltenham Day 3 Selections

After a disastrous start to the festival for the blog on Day 1 things took a turn for the better on Day 2. NAP Yorkhill got us off to the perfect start with a commanding win in the opener and he drifted out to a tasty price of 3/1. It must be said that Walsh gave him an absolute peach of a ride, but what Geraghty was at taking Yanworth so wide is beyond me.

Shaneshill followed that up with a superb effort in the RSA Chase and he was thwarted in a thrilling finish by Blaklion. I was gutted with Duke Street and he had no excuses after getting the run of the race. Battleford was just a whisker away from landing the Bumper and to be honest I thought he got back up in real time. My stomach sank when Ballyandy was called the winner and for the second time we were done by Twiston Davies! Hopefully we can land some more place money tomorrow and after hitting the bar with a couple of big ones we are due a tasty priced winner. Below are my selections and analysis for every race on Day 3.


This is a very open looking renewal of a race that was run for the first time in 2011, and Willie Mullins has won it twice, including last year with 6/4 fav Vautour. He has been the only favourite to oblige since the inception of the race, though the only double priced winner was Benneficient back in 2013 for Tony Martin.

I think there could be another winner from the Royal County of Meath tomorrow and connections' of Zabana are very hopeful of a bold show. This 150 rated 7yo son of Halling went desperately close in a thrilling finish off 144 in the Coral Cup last year so he has proven himself at the track. He was 4 from 11 over timber and he signed off on his hurdling career with a fine 3rd to Jezki in a Grade 1 at Punchestown (24f yielding).

He has had just the two starts chasing and he opened his account at the first attempt when accounting for useful sorts Blair Perrone and Tell Us More at Leopardstown (19f heavy). It was an impressive performance seeing as he is best on a decent surface, and it is perhaps best to put a line through his run in a Grade 1 at the same track (21.5f heavy) when the trip on such bad ground likely stretched his stamina. Returned to good ground tomorrow we should see a much better horse, and at odds of 12/1 he is a confident each way selection who should go very close given a clear round.



24 will go to post in what looks a devilishly difficult puzzle to solve this year. Only one favourite has won since 2006 and 8 of the last 10 winners have won at prices ranging from 14/1 to 50/1. Nicky Henderson sent out Call The Cops to win it last year and he was the second 6yo in three years to come out on top. Only 3 of the last 10 winners have carried more than 11 stone and the last Irish horse to win was Kadoun back in 2006.

I am taking a chance on a big one here, and with some bookies paying an extra place it would be advisable to shop around. The Peter Bowen yard hasn't been having a great time of it this season, but he runs a horse here called Rolling Maul, and though this 8yo son of Oscar is a monstrous price, I think he could surprise a few people with a decent run.

After winning here at the New Years meeting back in 2015 off 125 (24f soft) he was put away with a crack at this race in mind. However, he just missed the cut off a mark of 130 and he instead went to Warwick (25 soft) a couple of weeks later and hacked up by 4L. He followed that up with another excellent run behind Aqalim off 137 back at Cheltenham (24f good) and he was sent on his summer holidays after that run.

He embarked on a novice chasing campaign when he returned and he was pulled up on two of his three runs (well beaten on the other). However, he showed clear signs of life on his return to hurdling on his last run, when he came 4th behind Flintham at Warwick (26f heavy) off 137 back in January. He has been put away since that run and he has crept into the race that he was targeted at last year off 135. With crack claimer David Noonan taking off a very handy 5lb he is effectively off his last winning mark, and at odds of 66/1 he looks worthy of a small bet each way in a race that a whole host of horses hold genuine chances.



With the defection of Vautour from the Gold Cup this race has taken on a completely different complexion. He will be bidding to become just the 4th favourite to win since 2006 and he is hard to oppose back down to a more suitable trip. Connections have likely made the right move in swerving the slog that is the Gold Cup and he is justifiably an 11/10 favourite.

One horse that could run well at a price is Taquin Du Seuil for Jonjo O'Neill. This 9yo son of Voix Du Nord had some serious form as a novice chaser and he is 5 from 12 over fences. The highlight was a win in the JLT back in 2014 (20f good) when he beat Uxizandre, but it was downhill after that and he was miles behind that rival in this race last year.

However, he reportedly had lots of niggles last season and he returned to action at Warick a month ago, hacking up in a handicap off a mark of 152 and showing plenty of his old spark. He is allegedly in fine fettle and connections stumped up a fair few quid to supplement him for this race last week. He is a dual good ground course winner at around this trip, he looked back to something like his best last time and at odds of 20/1 he could represent each way value in a race that looks Vautour's to lose.



I have written an in depth preview of this race for Bettingtools and you can read it here.


I have had a horse in mind for this race for quite a while and Empire of Dirt looks a fascinating contender for Colm Murphy and Gigginstown, neither of whom are strangers to success at the festival. This 9yo son of Westerner has won just 2 of his 11 starts over fences, but he bounced back to form with a commanding win at Leopardstown (21f soft) in a valuable handicap off 133 last time, and straight after that win his trainer was talking about a trip to Cheltenham.

All his wins have come on soft or heavy ground, but he hasn't had many chances on a decent surface and his last run on better than soft saw him finish just 4L behind Faugheen (20f good to yielding) off level weights back in Dec 2013. His trainer also thinks that good ground should be fine, and his sire Westerner has produced plenty of high class good ground jumpers (Cole Harden and Western Warhorse among others). He looks a big price at 20/1 and off a mark of 142 he could run a big race if the better surface suits.



Yet another Ricci/Mullins horse dominates the market here and Limini is a 5yo mare that has yet to taste defeat over timber. She has had just two runs since arriving from France and she was impressive in accounting for subsequent 4 time winner Sandymount Duke first time out at Punchestown (16f good). She hacked up in a Grade 3 mares' event afterwards, and the reopposing Whistle Dixie was 17L behind (18f heavy). She has long been a short priced favourite for this race and with winning form on good ground she looks by far the most likely winner at her current odds of 4/5.

At a price one that could run a big race is Tea in Transvaal, a 5yo daugher of Teofilo who has been a revelation since sent hurdling after a moderate flat career (rated 79). She has been put away since her last win in November, a 6L romp in a Listed heat, and she has won 5 of her last 6 starts. Her only defeat during that run came at Cheltenham when she took on the boys (16.5f good) and she was far from disgraced in fifth behind the likes of Devilment, Hargam and Lil Rockerfella.

This race has been the target since that listed win back in November and she is fine on any ground ranging from soft to good. She is rated 138 and that would give her a fair amount to find with the principals, but she has done nothing but improve in the last year and a big run with Paul Moloney on board would come as no surprise. If you are looking for an each way alternative to the favourite you could do a lot worse than have a couple of quid each way on Tea In Transvaal at 22/1.



I had tipped up Indian Castle for the handicap chase on Tuesday but he was declared a non runner. He instead takes his chance here and JJ King has been booked for the ride. His trainer Ian Williams was on target with Ballyalton earlier in the week and he could be set for another big day with this fella.

He was a course winner over 21f (heavy) here back in January 2014 off 135 and he ran a huge race to be 7th in this race (25.5f good) off a mark of 140 on his next start when he would have finished much closer only for a final flight blunder. He had a poor season last year, but he returned to form in a big way at last year's festival (good to soft), when again he didn't enjoy much luck in running in 4th behind The Druids Nephew off 139.

He has had a very similar preparation this year and he comes here on the back of a poor run when he was well backed for a 26.5f chase here off 139 on New Year's Day. However, every cloud has a silver lining and he has been dropped to a mark of 134 for tomorrow. That is 1lb below his last winning mark and he is 5lb lower than for his super effort last year. He is a big price at 20/1 and he looks well worth a small each way bet in what looks a wide open handicap.


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Cheltenham Day 2 Selections


Yanworth has been one of the most visually impressive horses this season and he is four from four over hurdles. While his first couple of wins at Exeter and Warwick were more workmanlike than spectacular, his last two wins have been achieved with consummate ease and he is a worthy favourite at 13/8. However, he is facing a proper horse in Yorkhill, and the lightly raced Mullins' horse looks to be a real threat.

He is unbeaten in just four starts under rules and after winning two bumpers (soft and yielding) he hacked up on his hurdle debut in a maiden at Punchestown. He took the step up to Grade 1 company with ease at Sandown in the Tolworth (16f heavy) and he is a horse that looks to possess a lovely mix of stamina and speed. He is by Presenting so good ground shouldn't be an issue, and his dam is related to a host of black type performers over jumps. He ticks an awful lot of boxes and he looks the most likely challenger to the market leader.

Those two are miles clear on the ratings and it is hard to see anything else making an impact. At bigger odds Vigil is the one that probably warrants a second look as he has long been regarded as a top class horse by Dermot Weld, and he was sent off favourite in the Champion Bumper won by Silver Concorde. He was 5th to Moon Racer in the same race last year when he was again well touted, and he broke his maiden over timber last time at Naas (16f heavy). He is bred to go on decent ground, and though he has nowhere near the form of the market leaders he could still sneak a place at rewarding odds upped to a trip that should suit him well.



I have written an in depth preview of this race for Sportismadeforbetting and you can read it and find out my selection by clicking here.


With 26 runners due to go to post finding the winner of this race will be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It will be a real battle charge and there are any amount of horses in the field with cases to be made for them. Arbre De Vie is a horse I tipped up for the Albert Bartlett (24f soft) last year and he just missed out on place money in 4th. He was subsequently placed in a valuable handicap at Punchestown (20f heavy) beaten by just a length off a mark of 144 and he is effectively just 3lb higher today with David Mullins worth every ounce, and more, of his 3lb claim.

His only run this season came in a chase at Thurles (20f heavy) back in January, and while he was narrowly beaten he is sure to come on massively for that outing. He was likely given a run in a chase to protect his hurdles mark, and he is still hugely unexposed over timber having had just one handicap run. David Mullins takes off a very handy 3lb and, in a race as competitive as this, that could make all the difference. There are mixed messages in his pedigree regarding the suitablity of good ground, but his dam is related to a good ground winner so he should be fine on it. The trip is perfect and at odds of 14/1 he could run a big race for his on fire yard.



I have also already written an in depth preview of this race for Bettingtools and if you haven't read it yet you can do so by clicking here.


Josies Orders is sure to be popular with punters for this race and the 8yo son of Milan was mightily impressive on his two course and distance wins earlier this Winter. Enda Bolger has a superb record in this race and his legendary gelding Garde Champetre was a joy to watch around this unique course. Josies Orders looks like he could be set to follow in his famous hoof steps, but there are plenty of potential dangers lurking in the field.

Last year's shock winner Rivage D'Or has again been written off by the bookies and he can be backed at odds of 20/1. His form has nosedived since that win though, and he was beaten by a combined total 180L by Josies Orders in two runs here earlier this season. He unseated in his final warm up run, which is far from ideal coming into a race like this, but his handler Tony Martin knows how to produce one on a big day and a big run wouldn't surprise.

Another trainer that knows what it takes to win this race is Peter Maher, and I was on Big Shu when he hacked up in this race a couple of years ago. This year he has Ballyboker Bridge to go to war with, and he was a gallant 3rd to Josies Orders here back in December. He followed that up with an impressive win around Punchestown's cross country course, beating Cantlow handily on soft/heavy ground. What makes that win even more noteworthy is the fact that Maher reckons he is a good ground horse, and he could run a huge race on Wednesday. Josies Orders holds him on their clash earlier this season, but on genuine good ground he could get an awful lot closer tomorrow. He is the each way selection in an open looking heat.



This has been a notoriously tricky puzzle for punters to solve in recent years and the last four winners have been priced up at 25/1, 33/1, 25/1 and 40/1. With plenty of horses making their handicap debuts it is impossible to know whether they are well treated or not, and only the trainers and owners have any sort of idea about how they will fare.

I have heard a whisper for Dr Newland's horse Duke Street, and thankfully he has just about crept in at the foot of the weights. He beat Duke Of Medina to break his maiden over timber at Ludlow (16f good) and this 5 time flat winner (at trips ranging from 12f-16f) for Mark Johnston has taken well to hurdling. He was beaten on his next two runs in class 4 heats at Huntingdon and Sandown (soft/good to soft) when sent off at short odds on both occasions. A bad mistake cost him the race in the Huntingdon heat, and the ground at Sandown was much softer than ideal.

He will be back on his favoured good ground tomorrow and he warmed up for this with an outing on the all weather at Chelmsford (16f) when he ran a grand race to be 3rd. That will have blown away the cobwebs nicely and he should be in tip top shape for the Fred Winter. I think this 4yo son of Duke Of Marmalade could be potentially well treated off 128 on his handicap hurdle debut and he is fancied to run well by connections. At 25/1 he looks worthy of an each way bet in a race where stakes should be kept to a minimum.



 I am not a massive fan of this race but I am delighted to see one of my favourite yards with a runner. Couer Blimey is one of the more fancied runners in the field and he can be backed at odds of 14/1. However, this will be a much different test to when he landed a monster gamble in an 8 runner listed bumper at Ascot (soft) and the better ground and bigger field are possible negatives.

Dermot Weld is a trainer worth keeping a close eye on in this race and his sole representative this year is First Figaro who, just like his stablemate Silver Concorde, seems to be best on good ground. Davy Russell has been booked and with the ground drying out all the time he could be worth a couple of euro each way at 16/1.

However, Willie Mullins has a plethora of entries for this race and given the ammunition at his disposal one or two of them are bound to run well. The one I like at a price is Battleford, ridden by Mikey Fogarty, a man that has experience of winning festival races for Mullins. Battleford is a 5yo son of Midnight Legend and his dam is a half sister to Grade 1 winner Black Jack Blues. He was impressive when making all in a soft ground bumper  at Punchestown on his rules debut and there was a lot to like about his attitude under pressure.

His sire has produced plenty of good ground performers and there is no shortage of stamina on the dam side of his pedigree, and stamina is usually what wins out the day in this race. He can currently be backed at odds of 20/1 and, seeing as Willie Mullins' last two bumper winners were sent off at 25/1 and 16/1, the price doesn't worry me at all. He looks worthy of a small each way bet in a race that has provided more than it's fair share of shock winners in the last decade.


Cheltenham Day 1 Selections

The waiting is almost over and the famous Cheltenham roar will go up in just a few hours time. The blog has been on a woeful run of form and Sirop De Menthe ran no sort of race for us in the Imperial Cup on Sunday. We are due a change of luck, and hopefully it comes during the biggest week in the National Hunt calendar. You can check my thoughts on every race on the opening day below, and hopefully there is a winner or two in there to boost the betting bank for the rest of the week.


 A fascinating race to get this wonderful meeting under way and Min will be a short price to get the Willie Mullins roadshow off to a perfect start. Those who are on at bigger odds will be sitting pretty, but at his current odds of just 2/1 he looks very short. The one I like at a nice price is Tombstone for Gigginstown and Gordon Elliott.

This 6yo son of Robin Des Champs is 3 from 6 under rules, winning two bumpers and a maiden. He was stepped into Grade 1 company immediately after his maiden hurdle win (18f soft/heavy) and ran with great credit on heavy ground at Leopardstown behind Long Dog, finishing a close second beaten less than a length. He was kept to the same grade next time, again at Leopardstown, and found just one too good again in Bleu Et Rouge.

On that bare form he will struggle to beat Min, but his pedigree suggests that he could improve massively for the switch to decent ground. It is drying out all the time and his dam was a dual winner on yielding and good to firm ground and his sire has produced plenty of top class decent ground winners, including Vautour, Quevega and Sir Des Champs, all previous festival winners. I reckon he could be a different proposition on decent ground and at odds of 14/1 he represents serious each way value against the fav.

I have written an in depth preview for this race for Sportismadeforbetting and you can read it here.



As much as I'd love to oppose Douvan here it is impossible to pick holes in his form. He is the second of four short price Mullins' favourites and there will be lots of accumulators riding on him if Min can win the opener. With just 7 going to post there are only two places each way, and for place players it makes life difficult.

Sizing John has been beaten repeatedly by the favourite and it is hard to see how he can reverse the form on Tuesday. Vaniteux looks the best of the home team but at 7/1 he doesn't really appeal. I won't be having a bet here and it is a race to just watch and admire the machine that is Douvan demolish the field.


24 go to post for what looks like an absolute minefield of a race for punters and a case can be made for the vast majority of the field. One horse that really catches the eye down near the foot of the weights is Indian Castle. This 8yo son of Dr Massini is in the care of shrewd handler Ian Williams and by the look of his form he has been targeted at this race.

He was a course winner over 21f (heavy) here back in January 2014 off 135 and he ran a huge race to be 7th in the Kim Muir (25.5f good) off a mark of 140 on his next start when he would have finished much closer only for a final flight blunder. He had a poor season last year, but he returned to form in a big way in last year's renewal of this race (good to soft), when again he didn't enjoy much luck in running in 4th behind The Druids Nephew off 139.

He has had a very similar preparation this year and he comes here on the back of a poor run when he was well backed for a 26.5f chase here off 139 on New Year's Day. However, every cloud has a silver lining and he has been dropped to a mark of 134 for tomorrow. That is 1lb below his last winning mark and he is 5lb lower than for his super effort last year. He is a big price at 28/1 and he looks well worth a small each way bet in what looks a wide open handicap.



I have written an in depth preview of this race for Bettingtools and you can find out who I fancy here (don't worry it is not Annie Power!!).


This is a race that Willie Mullins has dominated in recent seasons with Quevega and Glen's Melody, and the Irish handler has another very warm order in Vroum Vroum Mag. She has won Grade 2s both hurdling and chasing and she has shown she handles any ground. She is an 11/10 shot though, and there is definite each way value to be found elsewhere.

The horse I will be taking a chance on is the Govanness who runs for Dr Newland and who will be ridden by champion elect Richard Johnson. This  7yo daughter of Kayf Tara has yet to taste success at Graded level, but she is twice a Cheltenham winner and she won a decent listed handicap last April here over 21f good. She also took a listed bumper here back in 2013 (good to soft) when she beat Lily Waugh. This will be her first run at the festival and while she was 13l behind Vroum Vroum Mag last time out at Ascot (23.5f soft) the ground was against her, and back down in trip on good ground she could get an awful lot closer tomorrow. She is a confident each way selection at odds of 16/1.



Another absolute battle charge with 20 declared to take their chances and any amount with a case to be made for them. Gordon Elliott has won it twice in recent seasons and he looks to have another great chance of landing this four mile slog with Noble Endeavour. He looks short enough though at odds of 7/1 and one that could run well at a bigger price is the Paul Nicholls' trained Vicente.

This 7yo son of Dom Alco has decent course form in the book and he has reportedly been freshened up with this race in mind. He has won twice here from two previous visits (21f good, 24.5f good to soft) and he was also a decent 2nd to Shantou Village here back in October (24.5f good). His only poor run here came when the ground was soft back in December,but he will get his preferred ground tomorrow and he also gets a decent jockey in Will Biddick. He has looked an out and out stayer which you obviously need to be to have a chance in this race, and over the extra mile he can reverse the form with Shantou Flyer. At 16/1 he shouldn't be discounted and he looks worth a tiny interest each way in a wide open race.



I really fancied Katachenko for this race but unfortunately he just missed the cut, so I have had to come up with an alternative. It is a really tricky looking race and as with most of the handicaps at the festival there is an angle to be found for almost every runner. One trainer that has a more than decent record at Cheltenham is Henry De Bromhead, and his horse Domesday Book looks a tad overpriced at odds of 25/1.

This 6yo son of Street Cry certainly wasn't bred with chasing in mind, and his pedigree is littered with black type from horses on the flat. His half brother Free Agent was a listed handicap winner off 98 on good to firm at York (14f) and his dam was a very useful mare, rated 111 and a dual listed winner, again on good to firm. Domesday book has yet to run on anything other than bottomless ground (bar in a maiden hurdle on debut when 2nd), and while he has won twice on it the suspicion remains that he could improve massively on a better surface.

He was highly tried last time in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown but he was no match for Douvan, finishing last of 3 beaten 28L. He has been handed a mark of 139 for his handicap debut after that run and Andrew Lynch takes the ride. The step up in trip on better ground could be the making of him, and at odds of 25/1 he looks worth a couple of quid each way for a trainer and jockey combination that are no strangers to success on the biggest days.


Friday, 11 March 2016

Sirop Worth One More Chance At Sandown

Little ran well for a long way at Southwell earlier this week but her finishing effort was rather tame and she ended up fading out of it in the last 100 yards. After seeing the money come for her in the afternoon I was filled with optimism, but even though she didn't justify support I still think she has a bad race in her and no doubt she will pop up at a huge price the day I decide not to back her.

Tomorrow is Imperial Cup day at Sandown and Sirop De Menthe is of interest in what looks a typically competitive renewal. Fifteen runners are due to go to post and cases can be made for many, however Sirop De Menthe's effort here behind the re-opposing Rayvin Black back at the turn of the year on his penultimate run remains fresh in the memory and while he was only getting 8lbs of that rival that day when he was beaten 5L, tomorrow he gets a massive 19lbs from that horse tomorrow.

He was taken on for the lead by the Skelton horse when stepped up to 19.5f for his last run at Newbury and they went a ferocious gallop early doors. He ended up fading into fourth, beaten over 30L, but he was still bang there jumping the second last and it wasn't as bad a run as his finishing position suggests.

The handicapper has generously dropped him 2lb on the back of that effort to a mark of 130 and I believe he is definitely capable of being competitive once Lucy Gardner can get him settled. With Rayvin Black in the field a fast pace is assured, and hopefully a fast run 2m on soft ground will help Sirop to conserve more energy early on. With a huge swing in the weights he should be able to reverse the form of that January run with Rayvin Black, and once the ground doesn't dry out too much I think he could run a huge race at odds of 16/1.


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Championship Race Previews

I have written in depth previews of the four feature races on each day of the festival and if you want to read my thoughts on how they will go you can check them at Bettingtools via clicking on the links below.

Day 1- Champion Hurdle

Day 2- Champion Chase

Day 3-World Hurdle

Day-4-Gold Cup

I have also written a piece on the selections put up by Pricewise so far for the festival and you can also read that at Bettingtools by clicking here.

I am planning on writing a preview of each day of the festival, and I will have a selection up and my thoughts behind it for every race. The first day's preview will be up a couple hours after the final declarations for Tuesday's races and I have plenty of nice priced horses in mind. A lot will depend on the ground conditions and even at this late stage the conditions are very uncertain. I will likely have a selection up for the Imperial Cup on Friday and as usual I will tweet as soon as I have published it.


Tomorrow at Southwell I am going to take a chance on Little in the 6f handicap at 5.00. This 4yo daughter of Paco Boy is trained by Steph Hollinshead and she has had a good winter on the all weather tracks. This filly has admittedly not been one of the yard's leading lights, but the drop back to 6f, the return to Southwell and the application of blinkers for the first time are the reasons for my interest in her tomorrow, not to mention her tumbling mark.

She has won 4 races from 24 starts but her only three wins since she broke her maiden have come in plating company. However, she has been running in low grade handicaps for her current yard and a string of poor efforts has seen her mark fall to 46. She wasn't beaten all that far in 3rd back in January off 50 over 6f at Lingfield, going down by less than 3L and her penultimate run off 48 at Wolves was a real eye catcher.

She blew the start, was shuffled back coming around the top bend and didn't get a clear run until the leaders had flown. She wasn't given a hard time but still stayed on very nicely once she found daylight and she was beaten just over 4L in the finish. I have no doubt she would have been a lot closer with a bit more luck.

Her last run saw her stepped up to 7f at Wolves which is a trip that stretches her and she ran down the field accordingly. She drops back down to her optimum trip of 6f back at a track she has won at and if the blinkers sharpen her up at the start, and she can get a good early pitch, I think she has it in her to run a big race at odds of 16/1. She looks worthy of a small each way bet off her basement mark of 46.


Monday, 7 March 2016

Early Festival Fancies

It is now just over a week until the big one gets under way and as bookmakers are now non runner no bet on all races I have been having a look at the handicap and non graded races. There are a couple very interesting contenders that look well treated with solid form in the book, and best of all they are both very nice prices. If you are looking for the green light on whether to lump on Min or to pile on Annie Power you are in the wrong place, but for those who like an each way flutter at very fancy on. First up is the lucky last on the first day, the Novice Handicap Chase and I also have another selection for the Martin Pipe on the final day.


My NAP of the opening day last year, Thomas Crapper, was a gallant second in this race last year off 134, and his trainer has plotted a course that has enabled  him to arrive here off just a pound higher this year. However, while he is sure to run a big race he is a short enough price for a horse that has yet to win a chase from 10 attempts, and at much juicier odds I reckon Katachenko is worth a second look.

This 7yo son of Kutub has been handed a mark of 134 for the race and it will be touch and go as to whether he gets in. However, if he does he looks a very interesting contender, especially if the ground is anyway decent. He is still relatively unexposed over fences, and his owner Trevor Hemmings has a canny knack of picking up useful chasers. Donald McCain trains him and he returned this season with an impressive win on his handicap chase debut at Wetherby (15f soft) off a mark of 128.

He is a previous point to point winner on good to firm and he hit the frame in a couple of bumpers before hosing up on his second maiden hurdle run at Musselburgh (19.5f soft). He followed that up with another victory in a novice hurdle, and after that 7l romp he was beaten when dropped to 16f on soft ground at Perth under a double penalty. Instead of heading down the handicap hurdle route he was sent straight over fences and after a poor run on his first go he was much better next time in a first time hood at Kelso, just losing out to Pair Of Jacks, who incidentally hacked up on his handicap debut next time out off 130.

Katachenko was a close second to Baltimore Rock, who holds an Arkle entry, on his last run at Doncaster (16.5f soft) and that good effort came off 133. The trip was plenty sharp enough for him that day and the 20.5f around Cheltenham should be right up his street. A couple of year's ago Peddlers Cross and Overturn catapulted Donald McCain into the spotlight but he has had a tough few years since then. He will be hoping that Katachenko can put his name back on centre stage and at odds of 33/1 I think he is worth a couple of quid each way if he makes the cut and the ground is decent.



Gordon Elliott has always tried to target this race at the festival and he has had a couple of very near misses over the years. He learned his trade with Martin Pipe so it is very much a personal goal of his to try and win this race. He has a host of entries this season, and one that there hasn't been a huge amount of talk about has caught my eye. Tycoon Prince has been handed a mark of 139 for his handicap debut, and this 6yo son of Trans Island could be very well treated on that mark.

He has won four of his seven starts under rules and he was 4th to subsequent Cheltenham bumper hero Moon Racer on his debut at Fairyhouse, beaten just over 11L. He made amends by winning his next three bumper runs on ground ranging from good to soft, and he was mightily impressive on his hurdling debut at Punchestown (16f good), landing the odds in a weak enough maiden with the minimum of fuss.

He was sent off an odds on favourite for his next run, a 16f Grade 2 at Navan and he was beaten into 3rd on ground that would have been far from ideal. He was only 4Lbehind Thomas Hobson in that race, and he has since gone on to win the Neptune Trial at Warwick. Tycoon Prince found only
proven Grade 1 performer Bellshill too good on his next run at Navan, this time on heavy, and on the back of those efforts the handicapper has given him a mark of 139. I think that could massively underestimate this horse's ability and back on good ground he has the potential to be top class. With non runner no bet your money will be safe if he doesn't make the cut, but if he does I think he could run a huge race at his odds of 16/1.


Saturday, 5 March 2016

Hotelier Handicapped To Go Well At Gowran

Bob Tucker ran well for quite a long way at Newbury on Friday but a bad mistake about a mile out checked his momentum and unfortunately he faded badly out of contention. The search for a badly needed winner goes on, and there is a horse that tickles my fancy at Gowran that looks handicapped to go well on his first run back since the summer.

Colm Murphy is a trainer that used to have a much higher profile a few years back, and he is no stranger to success on the big stage. He sent the likes of Brave Inca and Big Zeb across the water to plunder big races at Cheltenham, and it was great to see him back in the winners enclosure on a big day with Empire of Dirt at Leopardstown. He was at it again a couple of weeks ago with his promising chaser Marlbrook at Naas, and his horses are obviously in fine fettle at the moment.

He heads to Gowran with just one runner on Saturday, Mister Hotelier, who goes in the feature at 3.55, a 2m2f handicap chase. This 9yo son of Beneficial has had 14 chase starts, winning two and placing four times, and on his day he is a pretty useful performer. He didn't have a great year last year, failing to win, but plenty of Murphy's horses were struggling at that time and it would be no surprise to see a much better horse today.

This fella has won on ground ranging from heavy to good and those victories have come at trips between 16f and 20f. Today's 18f trip and heavy ground hold no fears, and though he has yet to run at Gowran his four career wins to date have come at testing, undulating, right handed tracks, and Gowran fits that description perfectly.

He has been off the track 216 days and his last run came at Galway last August when he was 7th of 17 in a competitive handicap off 128. He last win came after a 73 day break so he has the ability to run well fresh, and hopefully he is fit and ready to go. He was a close 2nd off  that same mark of 128 at Punchestown (16 good) last May, beaten less than a length, and his last win came at Fairyhouse (17f soft) back in November 2014 off 126.

He is back down to that mark for today's race and Murphy has booked the services of Shane Shortall for the ride, who takes off a valuable 5lb. Shortall will be brimming with confidence after steering Shrewd to victory at Kelso on Friday and hopefully he can do a similar job on Mister Hotelier at Gowran in this 30k race. He will be carrying just 9st 11lbs and on desperate ground he could run a big race off his feather weight. His well being has to be taken on trust, so stakes should be kept low, but at odds of 16/1 he looks worth chancing each way in an open looking handicap for his in form trainer.


Friday, 4 March 2016

Bob Could Bounce Back At Newbury

Usually Friday is a day in the racing week where there is a fair amount of quality on the cards, however with Cheltenham just around the corner all the best horses are wrapped up in cotton wool and though there are a host of meetings on, it is definitely a case of quantity rather than quality. However, as you all know by know I love a low grade handicap, and at Newbury today I have my eye on a horse that goes in the 2m6f class 4 event at 16.00.

Last weekend Killala Quay did us a favour by getting the job done nicely at Kempton and my main selection A Vos Gardes didn't disgrace himself either. The Longsdon yard fired in another winner during the week and the stable looks to have well and truly turned the corner. He runs two in the 4.00, and there has been a few quid overnight for what looks like the first string, Long Lunch, who will be ridden by Aidan Coleman. However, my eye is drawn to his other entry, Bob Tucker, who will have a handy 3lb taken off his back by improving claimer Graham Watters.

This horse also failed to complete on his last run, pulled up over 3m on soft at Sandown off 130, and he also ran poorly on his penultimate run, again over 3m on soft at Ascot off 128. However, he absolutely hosed up on the run before that, his seasonal comeback at Worcester (23f good) off a mark of 118. He has won 4 of his 23 starts under rules and 3 of those wins have come on decent ground, with 2 of them at 23f.

He has run twice at Newbury, first over 23.5f on soft when he was 4th off 118, beaten 14l, and then again last March, again off 118 over today's trip of 22f when he was 3rd, beaten by just under 4L. He showed he had improved for his Summer break by winning first time up back in October, and the handicapper has been very generous in dropping him from 128 to 124 after his last run. Watters takes off another 3lb which leaves him just 3lb above his last winning mark and he also returns to class 4 company for the first time since his last win.

The so called 'first string' Long Lunch has serious stamina doubts and on all the evidence I have seen he looks a blatant non stayer beyond 20f. His only two wins have come at 16f and if Bob Tucker adopts his usual bold front running style it is hard to see Long Lunch lasting home. He hasn't been seen since his fall in December and the priority could well be a clear round. It is Bob Tuckers optimum trip, the ground is grand and with Watters (2/16 for yard) taking off a handy 3lb he could run a huge race back in class 4 company at a track where he has run well before.


Thursday, 3 March 2016

Croco A Crazy Price For Case At Cheltenham

The weights were recently released for the handicaps at the Cheltenham festival and my eyes lit up when I saw that Croco Bay had been given a mark of 147 for the Grand Annual, the last race on the Friday. This 9yo son of Croco Rouge was a brilliant 3rd in this race last year off a mark of 149, 5L behind Next Sensation, and he is 3lb better off with that rival this time around.

Now on the form he has shown on his last couple of runs Croco Bay would not have a hope going into this race. However, he produced a decent effort off 151 on his seasonal reappearance at Kelso (17f good to firm) when he was beaten just over 3L by Simply Ned. He was stepped up to Grade 2 company at Cheltenham on his next run and was beaten out of sight behind Sprinter Sacre, and his last run on desperate ground at Kelso in a class 2 hurdle (18f) was obviously just meant to blow away the cobwebs before his assault on the festival.

The Ben Case yard wouldn't be blessed with a huge amount of horses that are good enough to run in these sort of races, let alone go close in them, and I am firmly of the belief that Croco Bay's whole season has been geared towards having another crack at this race. Now he is admittedly still 10lb above his last winning mark, but the manner of that win was mightily impressive (hacked up by 19L) and he showed last season that he is capable of making an impact off his current mark. How he is more than treble the price of Next Sensation is beyond me, and at his current odds of 33/1 he is definitely worth a few quid each way.


Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Boris A Potential Improver On Handicap Debut

Prussian Eagle stepped up on his last run at Leopardstown on Sunday, but he didn't improve enough to take a hand and he came home 4th, just missing out on place money. He shaped as though he might benefit from a further step up in trip and another couple of furlongs should see him go a lot closer over timber. He is still only a 5yo and he is one to keep an eye out for in middle distance handicaps on the flat during the Summer. 

Tomorrow's selection is a speculative one, and stakes should be kept to a minimum. On a week that saw Boris Johnson visit Antrim on his quest to convince British voters to vote for 'Brexit', Boris Boru would be a topical winner at Downpatrick. This 5yo son of Brian Boru makes his handicap debut for Banbridge based handler Sarah Dawson at Downpatrick, and I think he could make an impact at this lower level after an encouraging run on his last start in a decent looking maiden hurdle at Thurles. 

At first glance it doesn't look like a great run, 10th beaten 29L, but having looked back at the race again I thought he showed that he had a fair bit of ability. He jumped slickly in mid division and half a mile from home he nipped up the inside and looked like he might challenge for a place. However, he was outpaced rounding the final turn and he ended up finishing in midfield, keeping on pretty nicely in  the home straight under Roger Loughran. 

He has been put away since that decent effort and he makes his handicap debut off a mark of 85 at his trainer's local track. Camlann, who was well behind him in that maiden at Thurles has since run creditably off 100 on his handicap debut (beaten 6L) at Leopardstown and On The Dry, who was 9L in front of him that day, was 4th off 102 on his handicap debut (sent off fav). The 3rd, 4th and 6th home in that Thurles maiden have all won races since, and if Boris Boru is fully fit and ready to go I think off 85 he could be set for a big run. At his current odds of 20/1 he looks worthy of a small each way bet in a race that won't take much winning. 

I will be concentrating my efforts for the next couple of weeks on trying to find us some big priced winners at Cheltenham, and as a result I won't have as many selections in the run up to the meeting. However, I will be keeping an eye out for any interesting runners and if I strongly fancy anything you will find it here as per usual.

I have already backed Seeyouatmidnight for the RSA Chase but I must admit I wasn't blown away by his run at Newcastle. I still think he would be way shorter than 12/1 if he was with Nicholls, Henderson or Mullins and hopefully he can run a huge race for Sandy Thomson. If the rains arrive he will go off a lot shorter and on soft or worse he will be hard to beat.