Friday, 29 April 2016

Saturday's Selections

Well Friday was a day to forget for the blog. Balnagon Boy didn't fire and I think the ground may well have been too quick for him. The other two ran absolute stinkers and the writing was on the wall a long way from home for both. Jer's Girl was the highlight of the day for me. I didn't back her as I don't go in for short priced favs, but she is a super filly and I was delighted to see her win for small operator Gavin Cromwell.

Saturday is a bumper day of action on both sides of the Irish Sea. Punchestown goes into it's fifth day and to be honest I am not a fan of these marathon festivals. The quality of fare usually declines as the week goes on and that is definitely the case at Punchestown. I do like one horse at the meeting though, and you can read about him and my fancy for the  Guineas below.


Heaney is a horse I have had my eye on for a long time. This 9yo son of Flemensfirth has been in the grip of the handicapper since back to back chase wins back in 2013. He was handed a mark of 130 after those two novice chase victories and despite a number of decent runs in handicaps since he hasn't managed to get his head back in front.

I backed him for the Irish National back in 2014 when Conor O Farrell gave him way too much to do. He ran off a mark of 129 that day and was beaten just over 10L into 6th (29f good to yielding). He ran in this race on his next start off the same mark and was a good 4th behind Chartreux. Since then his best run by far came at Leopardstown in January of last year when he was just 5L behind Foxrock off a mark of 126 (21f soft), staying on really well late on and almost getting 2nd.

He was pulled up on his seasonal reappearance on bad ground at Punchestown (22f heavy) back in December and he was put away until late last month. He was last of 5 behind Bright New Dawn at Clonmel and over just 20f on soft ground it was never going to suit. It should have improved his fitness no end though and he has been dropped to a mark of just 123. He steps back up in trip and returns to what should be perfect yielding ground tomorrow and I think he could be set for a big run for Tom Taaffe and Andrew Lynch. He is worthy of a small each way bet at 18/1 in a wide open handicap chase.



It is Guineas weekend at HQ and it is the turn of the boys on Saturday. 12 go to post and, surprise surprise, Ballydoyle supply the short price favourite in Air Force Blue. He is by War Front though  and his progeny have shown a distinct preference for fast ground. There are showers forecast for tomorrow and if it does turn up soft there could be a shock result on the cards.

The horse I like at a nice price is Massaat for Owen Burrows and Hamdan Al Maktoum. He is by Teofilo and he is a sire that I have enormous respect for. He has done me a huge number of favours in the last couple of seasons and his progeny are usually versatile when it comes to ground. Massaat's dam is a half sister to Group 3 winner Dolled Up, and she was a decent sort herself, winning 3 races and earning an RPR of 92.

This fella has already shown he has an affinity for easy ground, winning his maiden on good to soft in hugely impressive fashion at Leicester (7f good to soft) after a narrow defeat on debut on quick ground at Sandown. He was stepped straight into Group 1 company on his next start in the Dewhurst at Newmarket (7f good) and he ran an absolute cracker behind today's favourite Air Force Blue.

 He was outpaced in the final furlong and was beaten just over 3L at the finish in 2nd. However, it was a superb run for a horse having just his 3rd run and there is reason to believe he could get closer to the O'Brien horse tomorrow. The extra furlong looks sure to help and any more rain would also be another huge boost to his chances. I think he represents good each way value at odds of 14/1.


I might have a couple more selections for tomorrow but I am going to wait on the ground before I decide whether to put them up or not. Keep an eye on my twitter @DaveStevos for further updates.


Thursday, 28 April 2016

Punchestown Day 4

After a good first couple of days for the blog it was a lot tougher on Day 3. Pakman got us off to a flier by running a cracker in 3rd (adv 25/1) and I thought we were in for another successful day. Mr Fiftyone ran a very nice race but he could only manage 4th and he is sure to come on massively for the run. Dedigout was a non runner so at least he doesn't count as a loser!

The remaining two selections ran stinkers, and Ttebob in particular was desperately disappointing. He could never land a blow despite the money arriving, and it is back to the drawing board for him. Douvan was hugely impressive it has to be said and he is some horse to do what he has done in the last month and a bit. Day 4 looks a tricky enough card but I do fancy a few and you can check out what I think below.

Race 1

 A hunter chase to get matters underway and I have absolutely no interest in having a bet here.

Race 2

The first 'proper' race of Day 4 is a valuable Novice handicap chase to be run over 21f. With more rain forecast surely the ground will soften, and one horse that looks sure to suit is Tom Gibneys handsome son of Hernando Balnagon Boy. This fella owes us nothing having landed a nice touch for the blog earlier in the season (read here) and I think he could be set to run another big race tomorrow.

He will appreciate an ease in the ground and I am convinced that his best trip is around 20f. He won his Novice chase over 16f at Fairyhouse and he was just as good on his next couple of runs upped to 20f. He was dropped back to 17f (yielding) for his chase handicap debut last time out and back from a couple of months off he ran a lovely race behind Solita in 4th.

That will have put him cherry ripe for this and he looks ready for the step up to 21f. It is important that he gets into a nice rhythm early as his jumping can be a bit sticky at times. He usually warms up as the race goes on though and on a line through Marlbrook he should be well capable of making an impact off his mark of 126. Moore takes off a handy 5lb and at odds of 12/1 I think he can hit the frame.


Race 3

Paul Nolan has the likely favourite here and Solita is just a 9/2 shot having won her last two races. However, while she is sure to be popular with punters I am sweeter on his other entry, I'm All You Need, a 6yo daughter of Kings Theatre that looks sure to appreciate the step up to 21f.

She has been running well over inadequate trips and one of her best runs came behind Balnagon Boy at Fairyhouse (16f heavy) staying on well and never nearer. She has been highly tried since then and she managed a decent 2nd behind Gitane Du Berlais in a Listed Chase at Naas (16f soft). She ran well off a mark of 123 at Leopardstown back in December, staying on really well again for 2nd over 17f (heavy).

She was pulled up last time behind Solita at Fairyhouse (17f yielding) but she obviously wasn't right and you can put a line through that effort. She is now 2lb lower than for her good handicap run at Leopardstown and with the step up in trip sure to suit I think she can go close at odds of 18/1.


Race 4

The feature race of the day is the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle and it looks a three horse race. Identity Thief has failed to live up to his early season promise, though the more rain  that falls the more it will aid his chances. My Tent Or Yours has run two huge races since returning from injury but this could be too big an ask. Vroum Vroum Mag was a controversial late withdrawal at Sandown and she could be hard to beat in receipt of 7lbs from the boys. However, I am not going to have a bet on this race as I can't see much value in the markets.

Race 5

The 2nd Grade 1 of Day 4 is the Novice Champion Hurdle and it looks like it is Jer's Girl's to lose. This filly has put Gavin Cromwell on the map and as Elusive Ivy showed earlier his horses are in super form. The more rain that falls the better for this daughter of Jeremy and she will be hard to beat at 2/1, especially as she is getting over a stone in weight from her older rivals.

The each way value could lie with the Jessica Harrington trained Jett, a beautifully bred Flemensfirth gelding that is a half brother to Jezki among others. He was a let down last time out but the trip was likely too sharp for him that day and he is better judged on his impressive maiden hurdle win over today's trip of 20f at Leopardstown (soft). His yard is flying and he could be the one to chase home the favourite.


The rest of the card on Day 4 doesn't make much appeal to me and I haven't been able to find anything that looks massively overpriced. Hopefully the selections for tomorrow do better than today's, but after the first couple of days any more winners would be a huge bonus.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Punchestown Day 3

After Don't Touch It and Zabana won for us on Day 1 I thought it would be hard to match that on Day 2. However, we didn't do too badly at all and Carlingford Lough was undoubtedly the highlight in the big one, tipped up at 22/1. Definite Earl travelled very well but he found disappointingly little when push came to shove and he faded into 7th place in the opener, the only selection that failed to make the money.

Sandymount Duke ran a cracker to be 3rd, landing each way money at 20/1 (adv) and Val De Febet stayed on really well to get 2nd at 10/1(adv). Croco Bay tried to make all in the last but he couldn't hold off the late challengers in the final furlong. He held on well for 4th though and landed another nice each way touch for us at 20/1. Tomorrow is another cracking day of racing but the rain is due to arrive so horses that enjoy a bit of cut could be the order of the day. Below are my thoughts and selections for Day 3.

Race 1

With the heavens set to open before racing gets under way on Thursday an ability to handle soft ground will be key. The opening heat, a 25 runner 16f handicap hurdle, looks a very open race. It is 8/1 the field and the two JP McManus entries are near the top of the market. However, regular readers of the blog will be familiar with my fancy for this race, and Pakman again looks overpriced at odds of 25/1.

This fella first caught my eye when running a cracker at 100/1 at Fairyhouse (16f heavy) back at the start of the winter. He has run just one poor race in 5 starts since, and he ran a huge race on his handicap debut at Fairyhouse (16f yielding) off 112, 3L behind Dollar And A Dream on his penultimate run.

He is just a pound higher today after finishing 3rd back in maiden company last time over 19f in Limerick, a trip that stretched him. He has a good 4th here in the book so he handles the track and he has a 3lb swing in the weights for that 3L defeat to Dollar And A Dream. He is over twice the price of that rival for tomorrow's race and at 25/1 surely he is worthy of supporting each way for tricky customer Adrian Murray.


Race 2

Jessica Harrington has two entered in this 2m handicap chase and with her horses in such fine fettle it is no surprise to see Rock The World at the head of the market. However, with the rain due to arrive the ground could turn soft, and I think that will suit her other horse better. Mr Fiftyone is a three time soft ground winner, including a chase, while all of Rock The World's wins have come on a decent surface.

Stable jockey Robbie Power is on the favourite, but he likely made his choice when it looked as though the ground would be good. Mark Bolger takes the ride and he is a more than capable pilot. Mr Fiftyone hasn't been seen on the track for over 7 months, but that is not too much of a worry as he has run well when fresh before. This will be his first run on soft ground since an excellent effort off a mark of 132 in a handicap chase at Galway (18f) last summer when he was 3rd to Bally Longford. Off just a pound higher here he is capable of making his presence felt, once the rain arrives in time.


Race 3

I have no strong fancy for this cross country race and it is one to just watch and enjoy.

Race 4

Once again I am going to presume that the ground will have softened for this Grade 1 24f hurdle, and one horse that definitely looks overpriced if it does rain is Dedigout. This lad is a classy sort on his day but he needs plenty of cut to be seen at his best. He was considered as a World Hurdle horse by Tony Martin but he has had a tough time with injuries and that has scuppered plans for him to run at the festival.

However, he has more than paid his way over the years and last season was one of his best. He landed a trio of Grade 2s at trips ranging from 20f to 24f and they all came on soft or heavy ground. He was a Grade 1 winner back in 2012 and that victory came at Punchestown (20f heavy) as did his chase win in identical conditions. He was poor on his seasonal comeback at Navan but it was much more like it last time at Fairyhouse when he was 3rd to Value At Risk (20f soft). That run should have put him cherry ripe for his return to Grade 1 company and I think he is way overpriced at odds of 28/1.


Race 5

This 24f handicap hurdle has 25 runners and it is a wide open heat. Willie Mullins supplies 4 of the runners and the one I like is Vedettariat, who will have the assistance of top class pilot Mikey Fogarty in the saddle. This 7yo son of Lavirico has been very lightly raced this season and he reverts to the smaller obstacles after three chase runs, one of which resulted in a wide margin win at Fairyhouse (21.5f heavy).

He has had just one run in a handicap during his 13 race career and he was well beaten at Fairyhouse off a mark of  134 (24f soft/heavy). That run may well have come too soon after his easy win in a novice hurdle at Navan (23.5f heavy) and he is better judged on that run. He has been dropped to 132 for this race and on the form of his Navan win he should be well capable of making the frame off that mark. He goes on soft ground, he is fresher than a lot of his opponents and he is the each way selection  at odds of 22/1.


Race 6

The second Grade 1 of the day and Douvan is a short order at 1/5. However, you would need your head examined to be backing him at that price, especially when you consider what happened to the two Mullins' good things on Day 1. Three Grade 1s in 6 weeks is a big ask and even a horse with his ability could struggle to pull it off.

The each way selection is Ttebbob, a 7yo son of Milan from the on fire Harrington yard. He hasn't been seen since finding just Sabremont too good in a Grade 2 at Navan back in Feburary so he will be a lot fresher than most of his rivals. He won his first two chase starts in impressive fashion, over 18f at Thurles and then a Grade 3  over 17f at Navan, both on bad ground. The forecast rain will be in his favour tomorrow and on ratings he has very little to find with the rest of the field bar Douvan. I think he is capable of running a big race and at odds of 33/1 he is the each way suggestion.


Race 7

I have no strong fancy here. If the ground had stayed good I would have given Tom Gibney's mare The Nutcracker a squeak, but the forecast rain is not in her favour. The same applies to Miss Estela, another one that likes a decent surface. I am going to hold fire on this race and just watch it.

Race 8

I have no fancy for this race either. Willie Mullins holds a strong hand and he could strike with one of his bigger priced runners. However, it doesn't appeal as a betting heat to me and it is another race to just watch and enjoy.

Punchestown Day 2

Well what a day that was for the blog yesterday. Don't Touch It won at 16/1 but hopefully some of you got on at 40s. Bamaka Moriviere ran a funny sort of race and to be honest I couldn't believe that he managed to finish 4th and reward each way support (adv 20/1). Zabana (adv 9/2) gained compensation for Cheltenham with an impressive display and finished off the day nicely for us. Below are my selections for day 2.

Race 1

A very tricky handicap gets day 2 of the Punchestown festival under way and a case can be made for any amount of the participants. The one I like at a price is Definite Earl from the Broad yard. This 8yo son of Definite Article is pretty lightly raced for his age, and he has won just one of his 14 starts under rules. That win came in a novice at Ballinrobe (16.5f good) this time last year and he has had a couple of runs to prime him for a summer campaign this season.

He showed that he was approaching peak condition with an excellent effort on unsuitably heavy ground in a novice hurdle at Ballinrobe last time, staying on really well for 2nd (17f heavy). He has shown a clear preference for decent ground and he has that today. He showed he stays the trip with an excellent effort at Sligo (20f yielding) last year in a maiden behind Mells Theatre, and he had previously chased home the progressive Bog War at Fairyhouse in a handicap (16f good) off 102. He is off a mark of 114 today on his return to handicap company and I think he could be set for a big run at odds of 20/1.


Race 2

Having backed Balko Des Flos at Cheltenham and Aintree I was nearly tempted to go back to the well for a third time today. I'm not convinced that the drop to 20f will suit him though and for that reason I'll be opposing him. I don't have a very strong opinion on this race but at a double figure price Val De Ferbet could run well for rookie trainer Andy McNamara.

This 7yo son of Voix Du Nord ran a lovely race last time on yielding at Thurles (24f) when he chased home Jennies Jewel. He is a dual chase winner over 3m, including a Grade 2 at Limerick last year. He won his only hurdle back when he was trained in France (17.5f soft) and he was a good 4th in this race 2 years ago. La Vent D'Antan and Cheltenian were among the horses in front of him that day and this year's renewal doesn't look as strong. He is the 2nd highest rated in the field at 142 and he is the each way suggestion at 10/1 in an open looking race.


Race 3

The first Grade 1 of day 2 is a 24f Novice Hurdle and this is another very open looking race. Acapella Bourgeois is highly rated by connections and they are expecting a big run. I'm not sure about the step up in trip though and at 5/1 he looks a bit skinny.

One horse that could make the frame at a price is Ronnie Wood's horse Sandymount Duke. He is rated 136 so he has a fair bit to find with some of these, but he could run well stepped into Graded company for the first time. His yard couldn't be going any better and Jessie Harrington did us a big favour yesterday with Don't Touch It. He has won here before, is proven at the trip and he prefers good ground. He won first time up last year so his lack of a recent run isn't a worry and at his current odds of 20/1 he is worth chancing each way.


Race 4

The feature race on Day 2 is the Gold Cup and Cue Card is a warm order to follow up on his magnificent Aintree win. However, just like the beaten Mullins' hotpots yesterday this fella has had a hard season and it could be a bit too much to ask for him to come out and win this just 20 days after his Liverpool victory.

Carlingford Lough swerved Aintree and comes here after an excellent effort in 4th in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. His sole start over course and distance resulted in an easy win and he loves decent ground. He will be a fresher horse than most of these and this has probably been his target all season. He looks a huge price at 22/1 and he will be staying strongly on at the finish. He has a bit to find on the ratings but he is a useful horse and he is the each way suggestion in what should be a cracking contest.


Race 5

This is a devilishly difficult puzzle to solve and Moon Racer is the market leader at 2/1 for David Pipe. He is unbeaten and loves good ground but he hasn't been seen for over a year and at just 2/1 he doesn't appeal. I don't have a strong fancy here and this is a race that I will just watch and enjoy.

Race 6

This is a competitive looking handicap chase and my old friend Croco Bay is in Ireland to take his chance. He has finally been dropped a few pounds by the handicapper and he can make his presence felt off a mark of 142. He has had just 3 runs this season and he will be a lot fresher than some of his rivals.

Trip and ground should be fine and he is capable of producing a big run. He fell pretty early at Cheltenham so he didn't have a hard race, and he ran alright behind Katachenko at Aintree last time off 147.  I am giving him one more chance at odds of 20/1 for a trainer that sent out Deep Trouble to win at this very festival back in 2014.


Race 7

I have no strong fancy here and I will be sitting this one out.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Punchestown Day 1

The last hurrah of the Irish National Hunt season takes place this week in Punchestown and all the top trainers from both sides of the Irish Sea will be represented. With a host of Graded races and competitive handicaps to be run there is plenty to look forward to, and  below are my selections for Day 1.

Race 1

The festival gets under way with a pretty low quality race over the banks and I have no strong opinion on this race. Wish Ye Didn't took it last year and he is a warm order to retain his crown. The each way suggestion is Treo Eile for the Slevins at 12/1. He was 4th in this race last year, 20L behind the winner. However, he has been running well in point to points and he took the scalp of the evergreen Sizing Australia last time out. He will relish the ground, he is proven over the fences and at 12/1 he could get closer to Wish Ye Didn't than he did last year.


Race 2

The first of three Grade 1s on the card and Yorkhill looks very short at 1/2. He has looked imperious in taking a hat trick of Grade 1s on his last three starts on ground ranging from heavy to good. The worry is that this race might come a bit too soon after Aintree, and it would be some feat to land 3 Grade 1s in the space of 6 weeks. The drop back to 16f is another slight concern and at his current odds I would be a layer rather than a backer.

Petit Mouchoir has followed a similar route to the favourite, taking in races at both Cheltenham and Aintree, and he had a hard race last time. One horse that appeals as being possibly overpriced is Don't Touch It at 40/1. Jessica Harrington has her string in terrific order and she has been firing in the winners.

This 6yo son of Scorpion has been written off after a poor run on bottomless ground at Naas in a Grade 2, but it was hard not to be impressed by the manner of his maiden hurdle win at Leopardstown on his previous start. He hosed up by 13L on soft ground (16f) and while the 2nd has let the form down it was still a visually impressive performance.

 He also has form in the book with A Toi Phil, who was impressive when subsequently beating Acapella Bourgeois in a Grade 2. I think the better ground tomorrow could suit Don't Touch It and with his yard in such good form he looks worthy of a small each way bet at odds of 40/1.



This Grade B 2m handicap looks a horrendously tricky puzzle to solve and a case can be made for any amount of them. To Choose sneaks in off a feather weight for Tom Gibney and if he had the benefit of a recent run I would really fancy him. The same applies to Elmono from the shrewd Bramall yard, a gelding that could be chucked in off a mark of 118 given that he was placed in a Listed heat in France.

However, the one think that could be set for a big run at a nice price is Bamako Moriviere, trained by Willie Mullins and owned  by Rich Ricci. He hasn't pulled up any trees since joining the Mullins yard from France, but he has yet to encounter decent ground. He was given a strange ride by Ruby Walsh last time,never put in the race, and I got the impression he was thinking of more important days ahead. His sole career start on good ground resulted in a win, and he is completely unexposed on a decent surface. His odds of 20/1 look huge, and he is worthy of each way support in a wide open handicap.



The second of the Grade 1s, the Champion Chase, and what a cracking contest it is. Vautour will be looking for redemption after his hiccup at Aintree but his air of invincibility has disappeared and it would be a brave man steaming in at 2/5. If he jumps around he should be too good for this lot, but with 8 runners due to go to post I think a small each way bet at a bigger price is the more sensible option.

God's Own was the one to benefit from Vautour's mishap at Aintree and he is a previous course and distance winner. He is 10/1 and he will be very popular with each way players. However, Simonsig  at 11/1 is a fascinating contender. He looked like a potential superstar in the making back in 2013 but injury intervened and he has run just once in 3 years. However, as he has showed with Sprinter Sacre Nicky Henderson is a maestro at getting injured horses back to their best, and if a peak Simonsig shows up he could put it right up to Vautour. He is well worth chancing at 11/1 in what promises to be a fascinating Champion Chase.



This is a really tricky looking bumper as many of the horses have shown their form on bad ground. Conditions will be a lot  different today and it is no surprise that good ground winner Jenkins is the odds on favourite for Nicky Henderson. The Jessica Harrington newcomer Loupgarou is by Martaline so he should be fine on the nice ground, and his dam is related to a multiple French listed winner Peldero. Given the form of his yard he is the token each way selection at 14/1.



The last of the Grade 1s on the opening day is the Champion Novice Chase and for once we don't have a Mullins hotpot dominating the market. Outlander is currently the 7/2 favourite for the champion trainer, but there are no shortage of potential challengers to him in this heat.

The one I like is Zabana, who was cruelly robbed of the chance to run at the festival by Davy Russell getting unseated at the start. He will be eager to make amends and after skipping Aintree he will be a fresh horse. Dunsany trainer Andy Lynch thinks the world of this fella and he really fancied him to run a huge race at Cheltenham. He has won on ground ranging from heavy to good to firm, and his trainer is convinced that a decent surface suits best. I think he can gain deserved compensation this evening and he is the nap of the day at odds of 9/2.



I have no strong fancy for this race and I will be sitting it out, hopefully counting all the winnings from my earlier selections...

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Sunday's Selection

Father Bertie was well backed yesterday and he put up a much improved performance to finish 3rd, beaten just over a length. He travelled really well and when he kicked clear coming into the final couple of furlongs I thought he had made a race winning move. However, he was reeled in at the death and could find no answers as two rivals surged past him. He held on well for third though and our each way money was safe. Today's racing is not of the highest standard, but I like the look of a reserve at Gowran and with a couple of non runners in the race he looks as though he is going to get a run.

Like A Prayer is a 5yo son of Compton Place and he was won 2 of his 24 starts, both on the all weather. He took an 8f handicap at Kempton back in January 2014 off 59, and won a similar event at Lingfield (8f) off 65. He hasn't managed to win since but he has run some decent races in defeat for Garvan Donnelly and two of his best efforts last season came at Gowran Park.

He was an excellent 2nd in this race last year off a mark of 65 (8f good) when he found only Hilary too good. He was poor on his next couple of runs but he again ran a decent race on his return to Gowran (8f good to firm) when finishing 4th, beaten 6L off 62. He again ran a cracker when returning here (8f yielding) last September, beaten less than a length off a mark of 55, and he followed that up with another solid effort at Ayr (7f good) off the same mark, again filling the runner up spot.

He didn't run too badly on his seasonal reappearance at Dundalk last month, finishing 10th but beaten only 5L and his poor effort last time out at Leopardstown came on heavy ground, a surface he hates. He returns to Gowran off a mark of just 52, a full 13lbs lower than when 2nd last year and, as if that wasn't enough, promising young claimer Gary Phillips takes off another 5lb, The ground has dried out nicely for Like A Prayer and he will have his optimal conditions for the first time this season. He loves the track, sneaks in off a feather weight and he should run a big race at a nice price in this wide open handicap.


Saturday, 23 April 2016

Saturday's Selection

Yesterday I was gutted with the run of Top Boy. I was really confident about his chances and a peak Top Boy would have beaten that opposition easily. However, that trademark burst of speed that has won him races in the past seems to have disappeared and he finished out of the money.

My Lucille on the other hand ran an absolute cracker. I hope some of you got the 50/1 that was available on her yesterday morning. Tim Easterby's horses are running well at the moment without winning, and I have decided to stick with him for today's selection.

Father Bertie goes in the 3.15 at Ripon, a class 3 8f handicap, and the good to soft ground is perfect for this 4yo son of Firebreak. He progressed at a rate of knots last season, winning 4 of his 11 starts and going from a rating of 72 up to 88. His last win came in a class 2 handicap at Redcar (8f good) off a mark of 86 on his penultimate run last season, by a nose, and the handicapper raised him to 88.

He wasn't so good on his final run last year off his revised mark, but that effort came over 10.5f at Doncaster, a trip that was always likely to stretch him. He reappeared with a run on the all weather at Wolves (8f) at the start of last month and he finished down the field in 9th, beaten just over 5L. Last time out at Doncaster (8f soft), again in a class 2, he ran well for an awfully long way before fading late on into 9th, beaten almost 8L.

On the evidence of those two efforts he doesn't look like a winner waiting to happen, but I think that he needs at least a couple of runs to blow the cobwebs off. He was well beaten on his first two runs last year before going close on his 3rd run and winning on his 4th. He is only 2lb above his last winning mark so he is not handicapped out of it, and Ripon is a tight track that can often play to the strengths of front runners. His draw in 6 should allow him to get to the front if he breaks well, and if he is allowed his own way out in front he could be hard to peg back. I think he is worthy of each way support at odds of 16/1 and hopefully he can be the horse that brings Tim Easterby's run of near misses to an end.


Thursday, 21 April 2016

Friday's Fancies From Doncaster

Mountain Kingdom was given far too much to do by his jockey on Wednesday. He travelled really well in rear but a mistake just as he was creeping into contention put paid to his chances. He looked as though he was just out for a run to blow away the cobwebs, and given how well he ran at Galway last year it would be no surprise if that turned out to be his ultimate target this summer.

Tomorrow there is plenty of quality action on offer with decent flat cards at Doncaster and especially Sandown. There are a couple of Group races scheduled for the London track and there could well be a few classic clues to be found for later on this season. However, the two horses I fancy go at Doncaster, and hopefully we have the makings of a nice each way double.

My main fancy for Friday goes at Doncaster in the 16.55, a 5f handicap, and he is a horse that those of you who have been following this blog for a while will be familiar with. Top Boy is a 6yo son of Exceed and Excel that was extremely frustrating to follow last season, but he has become well handicapped as a result and he is now 10lbs below his last winning mark of 87.

He has had a couple of outings on the all weather to blow the cobwebs away ahead of his return to turf and he hasn't been far away on both occasions at Wolves. He was a decent 4th beaten 2L off 79 on his reappearance and he finished in the same position next time at the same track, beaten 4L off 78.

He is a much better horse on turf though, and the good to soft ground at Doncaster will suit him perfectly. A top jockey has been booked in Tony Hamilton and he has a nice draw in stall 4. I am sure the plan for this fella is to return to York for the handicap he won back in 2014, and he will need a hike in the weights if he wants to get in. Hopefully he gives the handicapper reason to act at Doncaster tomorrow and if he puts his best foot forward he should be well capable of winning this race off 77.

The other horse I am interested in goes in the 6f fillies maiden at 2.45 and on the evidence of her first effort it is no surprise that My Lucille is priced up at 40/1. However, the ground was atrocious for that 8f heat at Redcar and trip was always likely to be an issue too given this filly's pedigree.

She is a 3yo daughter of Lawman and she has four siblings that have managed to reach the racetrack, all of whom have managed to win races at trips ranging from 6f to 11f. Her dam won a 2yo 6f maiden and her half brother Revelation was a 3yo 6f maiden winner before going on to land a Group 3. Her half brother was listed placed, also over 6f, and all the aforementioned horses relished nice ground.

Tim Easterby's animals often come on massively for their debut runs, and that could well be the case with My Lucille tomorrow. The drop in trip and better ground are reasons for optimism and main stable jockey David Allan takes over from Andrew Mullen in the saddle. Stakes should be kept to a minimum given how poor she was last time, but I think she is worth a small each way interest in a maiden that lacks strength in  depth.

                                              2.45 DONCASTER-MY LUCILLE 40/1 E/W 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Kingdom Could Come Good At Fairyhouse

Political Quiz ran a funny sort of race at Kempton. I thought he travelled very well for quite a long way, and a few furlongs out he seemed to be angling into position to make a challenge. However, when push came to shove he found disappointingly little and like many of Tom Symonds' recent runners he didn't finish his race off. I was worried about the form of the yard prior to the race and those fears unfortunately proved to be well founded. However, I have my eye on another horse at Fairyhouse on Wednesday and hopefully he can run a better race for us.

Mountain Kingdom is a beautifully bred 5yo son of Montjeu but as of yet he hasn't lived up to his blue blooded pedigree. Formerly trained in England by Sir Mark Prescott, he is now in the care of shrewd Louth handler John Larkin. His Green Desert dam was of little account, but she is a half sister to no less than five black type performers on the level, including Irish 2000 Guineas and Derby winner Desert King, Group 3 winner Cairdeas and multiple Group 3 placed Chianti. Mountain Kingdom has yet to scale those heights but he has plenty of time on his side as a 5yo.

He makes his handicap debut in the 2m hurdle at 17.25 tomorrow and he has been handed a mark of just 100. He has had three runs over timber, and the first of those over course and distance (good to yielding) was a cracking effort. He travelled like the best horse in the race and Barry Geraghty had to get pretty serious on eventual 3L winner Squouateur. That gelding went on to score in his first two handicaps  off marks of 120 and 127, and he was sent off fav for the Martin pipe at the festival where he finished 7th off a mark of 141.

Now admittedly Mountain Kingdom was getting 3lbs in weight off the winner that day, but it was a super first effort over hurdles and it would suggest that his mark of 100 could well be within reach. He has obviously been awarded that mark on the back of  his next two runs over timber, when he was beaten a combined distance of 119L. However, the ground was bottomless for those two efforts and that was never going to suit.

His best efforts on the flat have come with a slight ease in the ground, and he showed he has the stamina for this game with a game effort over 14f on good to soft at Yarmouth when he was with the Prescott yard. He produced a couple of decent efforts at Dundalk after moving to his new yard, but his best run by a long way came last summer at Galway (12f). He was returning from a 104 day break on that occasion and he ran a cracker in 5th on good to yielding ground, just 3L behind the winner.

The ground is currently described as soft at Fairyhouse but it has been dry in this part of the world for the last couple of days and there is no rain forecast between now and the start of racing. I think it will be improving all the time and it would be no surprise to see yielding in the description tomorrow. That will suit Mountain Kingdom perfectly, and his 116 day absence is not a worry as he showed when running so well at Galway. Quality 3lb claimer Ger Fox takes off 3lb so he effectively races off a mark of 97. That could turn out to underestimate him over timber and if he can repeat his debut effort here he could go close at odds of 25/1.


Monday, 18 April 2016

Quiz Could Be The Answer At Kempton

Milborough ran a gallant race for us in the Scottish National on Saturday. He was held up in mid division and was creeping nicely into the race about a mile from home. He was admittedly under pressure to do so, but his momentum was stopped when he was hampered at the 2nd last and instead of a top 5 finish he ended up in 7th. It was a good run though, and it would be no surprise to see him heading back for another crack next year.

Tomorrow at Kempton the ground has dried out and with no rain forecast hopefully it stays that way. Once it does remain dry there is a horse going in the 4.30, a 21f handicap hurdle, that I think will appreciate the return to a firmer racing surface. Political Quiz sneaks in off a mark of just 113 at the foot of the handicap and there is reason to believe he could be well treated off that mark.

This 6yo son of Lucarno is very lightly raced, and he has had only 6 runs during his short career. The first two of those were his best, and he was an excellent 2nd on debut in a bumper at Warwick (16f good). He was beaten just 4l and it was a promising first run. He wasn't seen again last season and he reappeared in a novice hurdle at Southwell (15.5f good) back in October. He delivered on his potential in that race, driven out to score by just over a length.

The second home that day, Marquis Of Carabas, has since gone on to run well on his next two hurdle starts, and he was just a couple of lengths behind Cloudy Dream on his next run, a horse that subsequently hacked up on his handicap debut off a mark of 122. He then went on to go close in a Grade 2 at Ayr. The winner of that race, Nuts Well, has also scored since, taking two handicap hurdles off 122 and 129.

Political Quiz didn't go on from his debut hurdle win and he has been poor on his four runs since. However, the common denominator for all those runs was the fact that there was soft in the ground description, and tomorrow will be his first opportunity in a handicap on genuine good ground After his last few runs he will be running off a mark of 113, and on the form of his win back in October that could massively underestimate him.

His pedigree suggests that this step up in trip to 21f will suit him well. His dam is a full sister to Like Minded who showed his best form at tomorrow's trip, and he was a good ground course and distance winner back in the day.  Ben Poste takes off  3lb and he is 2/26 for Symonds this season The form of the Tom Symonds yard is a slight worry so stakes should be kept to a minimum, but at odds of 25/1 Political Quiz looks worthy of an each way bet back on good ground for the first time since his debut hurdle win.


Friday, 15 April 2016

Saturday's Selection

Horizontal Speed was disappointing for us earlier this week at Cheltenham. He travelled well again but he was off the bridle a lot earlier than he was on his previous visit to the track and he folded tamely into 7th. He is probably over the top at this stage and he will be one to keep an eye out for next season once the handicapper drops him a  few more pounds.

It is Grand National day at Ayr tomorrow and Mouse Morris is looking to make it a hat trick of big race wins with Folsom Blue, currently a 16/1 shot. I'm not sure he has the necessary stamina for this 4 mile slog though, and the one I like is former Eider hero Milborough. He is trained just a stones throw from the track by Ian Duncan and he looks as though he has been trained with this race in mind.

This 10yo son of Milan has failed to get his head in front since that Newcastle win, and he fell in this race on his next start. He then travelled to Punchestown where he was a well beaten 10th and he was subsequently sent on his summer holidays. His reappearance at Carlisle back in November came in a 20f handicap hurdle and he was never likely to shine over that trip. He had another run back over fences at Newcastle (23.5f soft) before heading back there for another crack at the Eider.

When he won that race back in 2015 he was running off a mark of 134, but he was 6lb higher for this year's renewal. He ran a decent race back in 7th but he was beaten over 40L and he may well have needed the run as it was his first run back after a couple of months off. The handicapper generously dropped him 5lb for that effort, and he showed that there is life in the old dog yet with a cracking run at Carlisle last time when he was a staying on 2nd beaten less than 3L (24.5f good to soft).

He has been nudged back up to a mark of 137 after that superb effort but that is only 3lb higher than his Eider winning mark and he is surely capable of running a big race back up at 4m. He does nothing but stay all day and on the likely soft ground tomorrow stamina will be the main attribute needed to win this race. Milborough has it in spades and if his jumping holds together he is capable of running a good race at huge odds.


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Drop In Class To Suit Horizontal At Cheltenham

Although the prizes on offer won't be quite as lucrative as last month there are still some decent types taking their chances at Cheltenham tomorrow. Most punters will be concentrating more on the flat racing now, but even though the festival is almost a year away it is always worth watching the action at Cheltenham as clues can often be found for potential festival types, especially handicappers.

The horse I am interested in tomorrow goes in the class 3 23.5f handicap hurdle at 4.10 and Horizontal Speed is a fascinating contender dropped in class. He has to carry top weight off a mark of 130, but he has been contesting mostly class 2 events and he will find this company a lot easier to live with. His form figures for his last 3 runs read 989, and it is for that reason that he is a 25/1 shot. Now on the evidence of those three efforts he hasn't got a hope here, but his previous 4th over course and distance (heavy) behind Singlefarmpayment back on New Years Day was a cracking effort.

He ran off a mark of 137 that day and he was front rank the whole way round. He was travelling by far the best approaching the final fence and he looked as though he was going to hack up. However, he just ran out of steam on the bottomless ground in the closing stages and he ended up finishing an excellent 4th, beaten just over 4L.

His previous run at the track, in a listed handicap chase (20.5f good to soft), also resulted in an excellent 4th placed finish off 137 behind Irish Cavalier at the festival back in March 2015. Again he was ridden aggressively and he was beaten just over 3L at the finish. He has not been anywhere near his best in his last three runs at Haydock twice (23f heavy) and Kempton (21f good), but the return to Cheltenham and the drop into class 3 company are reasons to be optimistic.

He has won on ground ranging from heavy to good so the forecast underfoot conditions are not an issue, and the cheekpieces are on to try and sharpen his concentration. He is 2lb below his last winning mark of 132 and with Noel Fehily in the saddle (17/91 for yard) hopefully he can reward each way support at odds of 33/1.


Friday, 8 April 2016

Aintree Day 3 Selections

It was party central at Stevos' Towers at around 1.45 this afternoon as Party Rock romped home in the opening handicap hurdle at 33/1. Even though he hung right across the track jumping the last he still had plenty up his sleeve, and he found more than enough in the closing stages to pull out the win. It has been a long time between drinks for Party Rock but it was definitely worth the wait.


This is a devilishly difficult puzzle to decipher and almost all of the 22 runners have some sort of chance. I would love to be able to find another huge priced winner here but to be honest I can't see beyond the Tony Martin trained Mydor. This 6yo son of Stormy River was a big improver at the start of last year and after wins at Fairyhouse (22f soft) Leopardstown (24f heavy) and three subsequent placed efforts  his mark rocketed from 104 to 132.

He has been below par so far this season but his last run, in a handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse (22f yielding/soft) was a much more encouraging effort. He travelled very well but Denis O'Regan gave him far too much to do and he stayed on strongly for 3rd, beaten under 4L. He is 4lb higher tomorrow off a mark of 133 but the step back up in trip looks sure to bring about an even better showing than last time. I can't see the current 9/1 lasting and he is more than capable of winning off an absolute feather weight.



Yorkhill did the business for us when he hacked up at Cheltenham but as we have seen so many times this week he is no certainty to repeat the form. However, if he is even at 90% he should have too much toe for these and he is 2/7 favourite for a reason.

The one I will be having a small wager each way on at massive odds is the Sandy Thomson trained The Dutchman. His form is nowhere near as strong as some of the others in this field, but he has had just 3 runs under rules and he is open to plenty of improvement. He won his maiden on his penultimate run at Wetherby and he showed a good attitude to get the job done at 11/4.

He was stepped straight into Grade 2 company next time at Kelso (18f soft) and he ran an absolute cracker, doing most of the donkey work in front and keeping on very well for 2nd. he is bred to be a good animal and his sisters The Pirate's Queen and Katie Too have also earned black type over timber. Slightly better ground and a step up in trip should show the Dutchman in an even better light and he could be the one to chase Yorkhill home at odds of 50/1.



Douvan is the 1/6 favourite here and if he repeats his Cheltenham form he wins. If the ground dries out The Game Changer could be the one for the forecast but to be honest I won't be having a bet in this race and it is one to sit back and enjoy.


Once again we have another hot pot in Thistlecrack and he is a best price of just 2/7 to follow up on his spectacular Cheltenham win. He stays, is proven at the track and goes on any ground. I would love to see him try chasing next season as with his engine he would surely make up into a Gold Cup horse.

Shaneshill ran a very good race in the RSA at the festival and he reverts back to hurdles to take on Thistlecrack. He found only Douvan too good in the Supreme Novices' a couple of years ago so he is a more than useful sort over timber. He will stay every yard and if for some reason Thistlecrack is not at his best this fella could be the one to pick up the pieces at odds of 14/1.



This is a very competitive handicap chase and the one I like is Warden Hill for Mick Channon. This 8yo son of Presenting is totally unexposed over fences and some of his form would suggest that he could be very well treated on just his second start in a handicap over the bigger obstacles. He hasn't been sighted since hosing up in  a 4 runner novice chase at Market Rasen (24f good) and though he hasn't run for a year he has won twice after breaks of over 100 days. 

He chased home Coneygree on his penultimate run at Kempton (24f good to soft) and while he was beaten 40L he won the race for second with Virak, beating that rival by just under 2L off level weights. That rival has since gone on to be placed off 159 in a Grade 2 handicap at Haydock so Warden Hill's mark of 137 looks an absolute gift on that piece of form. He beat Sir Mangan by 11L last time and that horse went close off 132 in a listed handicap at Cheltenham off 132. Warden Hill's fitness has to be taken on trust, but his mark is too tempting to ignore and he is worthy of an each way bet at 16/1. 



From a punting perspective this is not a race to be going overboard in. Many Clouds looks sure to run his race again and it would be a fairytale to see Oliver Sherwood's horse do the job again. However, you would want to be getting your head examined backing a single figure priced horse in a race like this and I like one right down the bottom for the in form combo of Rebecca Curtis and Trevor Whelan. 

The Romford Pele fell on his last chase start, and that is hardly encouraging coming into a race like this. However, he has had a couple of confidence boosting runs over timber since that mishap and he ran an absolute cracker in his prep run for this behind Diamond King in the Coral Cup at the festival. He flew home up the hill over an inadequate 21f and he was beaten less than 5L at the finish. 

The run that put this horse on my Grand National radar came at Cheltenham back in November in a grade 3 handicap chase off a mark of 148. He stayed on really well in the closing stages over a trip of 27.5f and he looked in need of even further. His stamina will not be in question, but his jumping is the big worry especially over fences as big as these. However, I think Trevor Whelan's aggressive style will suit and if he can get a good early pitch and get the horse into a rhythm he is capable of running a big race at even bigger odds. 



An absolute minefield to finish off the festival and the one I like is Sir Ector for little known County Tyrone handler Nicole McKenna. This 9yo son of Dynaformer has been a credit to his connections and he has run some huge races in valuable flat and hurdle handicaps during his career. This time last year he went ever so close in a strong handicap at the Punchestown festival (20f good) when he very nearly reeled in the winner late on. That effort came off a mark of 121, and he is 7lb higher here, but a fast gallop over 2m should suit him well and Tom Garner takes off a handy 3lb. 

He presumably has been targeted at this race and he had a lovely prep run on the level at Cork a couple of weeks ago (5th of 14 10f heavy) off a mark off 99 and that should put him cherry ripe for this test. This is a wide open race so stakes should be kept to a minimum, but at odds of 33/1 he looks worthy of a small each way bet. 


Thursday, 7 April 2016

Aintree Day 2 Selections

The blog had a super day on Thursday and we got off to the perfect start when Arzal led from pillar to post in the opener under an aggressive ride from Gavin  Sheehan. He jumped like a stag and when the runner up came to him he had enough up his sleeve to repel him and pull away for an easy win. Azzuri ran a gallant race behind the ultra impressive Apple's Jade and he just held on for 3rd, rewarding each way support at an advised price of 33/1.

Unfortunately The New One fell before the race began in earnest, and Taquin Du Seuil just couldn't live with them in the Betfred Bowl. He wasn't beaten far and there is another nice race to be won with him at some stage. Katachenko gave us our second winner of the day (adv 14/1) with another bold front running display, but unfortunately Beyond Measure was well out of her depth in the bumper. Below are my selections for Day 2 and hopefully there is another winner or two in there for us tomorrow.


This is a typically competitive big field handicap hurdle and in races like this stakes should be kept to a minimum. The horse I like is right at the foot of the handicap and he won't be popular with many punters after being pulled up on his last two starts. However, I think Party Rock could be set for a much better showing tomorrow, and this Jennie Candlish trained 9yo son of Vinnie Roe has run well around here a number of times.

He hasn't managed to win since taking a strong handicap here off 128 back in 2013, but he has run some excellent races in defeat from marks as high as 145, such as when he was beaten just a half length by Like Minded here over 20f on soft ground. However, he has undoubtedly been handicapped up to the hilt, and a couple of below par efforts have seen his mark plummet back down to a very workable 130.

That is just 2lb above his last winning mark and he also managed a decent 7th place finish in this race last season off 137, 7L behind the winner Theinval who he is 11lb better off with this year. Although he was pulled up on his last run it was his seasonal reappearance and he was very badly hampered early on so you can put a line through that run. Jennie Candlish's horses are running out of their skins and she has had 4 winners and 2 seconds from her last 8 runners. Party Rock is a huge price at 33/1 and I think he is capable of running a nice race if he is fit and ready to go.



Limini will be a warm order here and after her Cheltenham romp and with a weight for sex allowance she will be very popular with those who love to smash a shorty. One I like at a price is Gwafa, and this 5yo son of Tamayuz has not only looked the part on his last two runs, he is also bred to be the real deal. He is a half brother to Listed handicap hurdle winner Australia Day, and his half sister Marjalina was good enough to win a group 3 on the flat.

He was useful on the flat and won his maiden before going on to be placed in two hot handicaps at Haydock and Ascot (both 12f) off marks of 85 and 87 respectively. He was a no show on his hurdling debut in a hot class 2 novice at Kempton, but he left that well behind next time at Fakenham when he hosed up by 15L on soft ground (16f). It was a similar story under a penalty at Huntingdon next time when he cruised home by 6L.

He skipped Cheltenham in order to be fresh for this race, which was mooted as a possibility by his trainer after his first hurdle win. He has a fair bit to find on the official ratings, and understandably so as he has yet to race in company anywhere as near as hot as this. However, he is bred to be a black type performer and I think he could reward each way support at odds of 20/1.



Having looked at this race for what feels like an eternity I don't think I am any closer to finding the winner. Nothing really appeals as being overpriced and it is a race I am just going to watch and enjoy. It looks a match between Un Temps Pour Tout and Blaklion, and if they both reproduce the form of their last efforts it promises to be a titanic tussle. May the best horse win.


Another race that doesn't appeal as a betting heat, but it will be still worth watching to see the machine that is Vautour in action. He hacked up in the Ryanair at Cheltenham and connections have kept him at 20f, a wise decision in  my opinion. He will be hard to beat tomorrow, but something has to come second and Clarcam could be worth a pound each way at huge odds.

This 6yo son of Califet has some useful Grade 2 chase form in the book and he took the Grade 1 novices' chase here last season by 4L from Vibrato Valtat. He has only had one run since the turn of the year, when well beaten at Fairyhouse on desperate ground, but those conditions were never likely to suit and he is a different horse on good ground.

He was also a close 2nd to Guitar Pete in a Grade 1 Juvenile hurdle here back in 2014 so his form figures at Aintree in Grade 1s are 21. He looks a huge price at 66/1 tomorrow and barring accidents he could be the one to chase Vautour home.



A 30 runner handicap over the Grand National fences and whatever wins a race like this will need a lot of luck, The one I am interested in here is Dare To Endeavour for Eric McNamara and Paul Moloney. This 9yo son of Alflora used to be trained by Tom George and was rated as high as 138 for him. He was pulled up on his last run at Limerick in a handicap hurdle (21f heavy) and in truth that was likely meant to serve as a pipe opener for this race.

I would imagine this race tomorrow has been the target since his super run behind our old friend Highland Lodge here back in December when he was a good 2nd over the national fences off a mark of 134 (26f soft). Now admittedly this race is 5 furlongs shorter at 21f, but his last win came at Perth over 20f in April of 2014 and he also went close off 134 over 20f at Sandown last March.

He jumped really well behind Highland Lodge in the Beecher and a proven ability to jump these daunting fences is a huge positive. He is just a pound higher here after that excellent run and his last win came off just 2lb lower. Paul Moloney will hunt him around and if he can get a good start he could be hard to catch. He looks a huge price at 25/1 and he is worthy of a small each way bet in a wide open race.



I put up Balko Des Flos at 40/1 in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and I didn't see anything in his run there to put me off going in again on him tomorrow. He travelled and jumped really well, and he just seemed to get tapped for toe on the good ground, finishing 5th beaten just over 15L. All the rain that has fallen will suit this 5yo son of Balko well, and he is 3 from 5 in his career so far.

He has won two bumpers and a maiden on ground ranging from yielding to soft, and his only bad run came on his seasonal reappearance on bottomless ground at Navan. That run was full of promise last time at Cheltenham and with a little bit more ease in the ground he is capable of going even closer here. Cooper has chosen to ride him ahead of Gangster and Arkwrisht, and at odds of 10/1 he is a confident each way selection.



Ballyandy broke our hearts at Cheltenham when holding off the late challenge of Battleford by a nose and he is 11/4 to make it a big festival bumper double. However, he was all out and had a very tough race at the festival and three weeks may not have been sufficient time for him to recover. Battleford is edging favouritism at 5/2 but the same sentiment applies to him and surely there is better value to be found elsewhere.

Utility is a fascinating contender for Coolmore and Jonjo O'Neill and this blue blooded 5yo son of Yeats hasn't been seen since hosing up in a heavy ground bumper at Uttoxeter back in December. He swerved the Cheltenham festival and comes here a much fresher horse than some of his rivals. Jonjo O'Neill's yard has been hitting form in the last couple of weeks and there are few in the field with the pedigree possessed by this fella.

He is out of a full sister to the top class 4 time German Group 1 winner Ungaro, and he is related to a whole host of black type performers. Two of his siblings have earned black type on the level and both earned RP ratings of over 100. This gelding has the potential to be absolutely anything and, though this will be a much tougher test than his debut, he is the each way selection in a very competitive heat.


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Aintree Day 1 Selections

Windforpower didn't run too badly for us earlier and he looked as though he might play a part in the finish a couple of furlongs from home. He was left behind as the others accelerated approaching the closing stages though, and it is likely that he is still not at maximum fitness. I still believe he is well treated, and he will pop up at a big price in the next couple of months.

Thursday sees the Grand National festival at Aintree get under way and some of National Hunt racing's biggest superstars will be on show in Liverpool. Willie Mullins has sent an army of horses over in a bid to seal the trainers title, but the home team are sure to put up a brave fight over the three days. Below are my selections for Day 1 of the festival where there looks sure to be some cut in the ground.


A competitive race to start this year's Aintree festival and Sizing John is currently shading favouritism after his 7L second to Douvan just 3 weeks ago at Cheltenham. Last year a lot of the horses that ran well at Cheltenham did so again here, but there was an extra week to recover between the two meetings last year so it could be tougher this time.

One horse that has no such worries is Harry Whittington's Arzal, who is currently priced up at 13/2. This 151 rated 6yo son of Vendangeur has had only 4 runs so far this season and his chase debut back in October saw him romp home by 6L in a novice handicap off 129 at Ludolw (16f good). He was even more impressive next time at Newbury (16.5 soft) in another handicap off his revised mark of 136 and he more than doubled the winning margin to 13L.

He was stepped into Grade 2 company next time at Kempton (16f good to soft) in December and he was far from disgraced behind Ar Mad and Vaniteux in 3rd, 5L behind that pair. He closed the gap to just over 3L to Vaniteux on his last run at Doncaster (16.5f good) back in January and he was giving 4lb to that rival on that occasion.

This will be his first start beyond 16.5f since his French days, and on that occasion he was beaten by less than a length on very soft ground. His half brother was an easy winner over 19f on heavy so his pedigree suggests the trip will be fine, and he has shown that he is effective on all sorts of ground. His trainer's decision to swerve Cheltenham could turn out to be a masterstroke and hopefully he can get us off to a winning start at 13/2.



Ivanovich Gorbatov did us a big favour when he hosed up at Cheltenham, and unsurprisingly he is a short price to follow up here. He won't want there to be too much rain though, and if it turns soft or worse he could be vulnerable. Given that there is plenty of precipitation forecast there may well be some value to be found elsewhere, and one horse at a price that won't mind conditions too much is the Dan Skelton trained Azzuri.

This 4yo son of Azamour was formerly trained in Ireland by Ger Lyons and he won two races on the level, a 10.5f soft ground maiden at Roscommon and a good ground handicap over 12f at the same venue on good ground off a mark of 78. He was picked up at Tattersalls by current connections for 68k guineas, and he has had just the two starts over timber.

His first run at Musselburgh in a class 2 novice (15.5f good to soft) was nothing to write home about and he was beaten by 25L. However, his trainer didn't lose the faith with him after that run and he ran an absolute cracker next time in Grade 2 company at odds of 25/1 at Kempton (16f soft) when he found only Zubayr too good.

Now the form of that Grade 2 was let down pretty badly at Cheltenham, but Azzuri didn't bother running at the festival and he will be a lot fresher than some of his opponents tomorrow. He is entitled to improve from his last run given it will be only his 3rd start over timber, and at odds of 33/1 he represents each way value in a race that looks the favourite's to lose.



This is a cracking race and three of the four main protagonists from this year's Gold Cup will renew acquaintances in this 25f  Grade 1. Cue Card is the market leader, and probably deservedly so given that the flat track at Aintree should help him see out the trip. However his confidence is in question after that fall at Cheltenham.  Djakadam and Don Poli are hot on his heels but they both put in monumental efforts at the festival and it remains to be seen if this race is coming just a touch too soon for those two.

One horse that really caught my eye at Cheltenham was Taquin Du Seuil and he was a never nearer 6th behind Vautour in the Ryanair (21f good). He definitely shaped as though he wanted a stiffer test of stamina on that occasion, and as he showed in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby back in 2014 he definitely stays the trip. He loves a bit of cut so the forecast rain will be in his favour, and the Jonjo O'Neill yard has been showing clear signs of life with a couple of good winners this week. The top three in the market will undoubtedly be hard to beat, but this fella had nowhere near as hard a race as that trio at Cheltenham and he could outrun his odds of 28/1.



Annie Power was sensational when winning the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and the worry for her rivals is that she will likely be even harder to beat over this longer trip of 20f. To add insult to injury she also gets  a 7lb weight for sex allowance from her rivals and there will be plenty of punters preparing to smash into her at odds on.

The one horse in this field  that I believe could put it up to the super mare over this trip is The New One. Nigel Twiston Davies' 8yo son of Kings Theatre looked as though he was tapped for toe in the Champion Hurdle and the 2014 winner of this race (and 2013 runner up) should be much more at home over this longer trip. I think he can reverse his Cheltenham form with Nichols Canyon and My Tent Or Yours, and at odds of 12/1 he is put up as an each way alternative to the favourite.



An absolute battle charge over the national fences and to be honest I have no strong fancy for this race. One that could possibly run well with a clear round is hardy old veteran Ockey De Neulliac. This 14yo showed that there is life in the old dog yet with a short head second in a hunter chase at Carlisle last time, and he was in the process of running a big race when coming down at Valentines' in this last season. He is available to back at odds of 66/1 and he is a tentative each way selection for small stakes.



Croco Bay was my main fancy for the Cheltenham festival in the Grand Annual but an uncharacteristic mistake at the 6th (water) ended his hopes of emulating his 3rd place finish in that race last year. He was still well in contention when he fell and who knows how close he would have gone, and the one positive that comes from that mishap is that he will be a fresh horse coming into this race.

His mark remains unchanged at 147 and he was 2lb higher when finishing 3rd in the Grand Annual last year. He has been pulled up on his last two visits to Aintree, which is an obvious worry, but last time was in the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl last season (20f good) and he was always going to struggle in that sort of company. He is much more at home in handicaps, and as 2 of his last 3 chase wins have come on easy ground all the forecast rain has to be seen as a positive. At 25/1 I think he is worthy of each way support.

Another that could run well at a big price is the Donald McCain trained 7yo Katachenko. He was another horse who I fancied to run well at Cheltenham, but unfortunately he just missed the cut off his mark of 133. Soft or better ground will be ideal and he should get those conditions tomorrow.

He is only 5lb above his last winning mark of 128 (Wetherby 15f soft) and his close 2nd to Baltimore Rock off 133 at Doncaster (16.5f good to soft) showed he is capable of making an impact off  this mark. He is only a 7yo so he has the scope to improve after just 6 chase starts, and he is another capable of running a big race at odds of 14/1.



18 are due to go to post for this tricky race and Warren Greatrex trains the market leader La Bague Au Roi. She is unbeaten in three runs so far, including one over course and distance. He has spoken in glowing terms about her and after her last run he proclaimed that "she's as good as you get....the next time you see her will be in the bumper at Aintree". She looks skinny at 2/1 but if she is as good as Greatrex reckons she will be hard to beat.

The one I think is an intriguing contender on pedigree is the Don Cantillon bred and trained mare Beyond Measure. She is from a family that Cantillon has done very well with, and this 5yo daughter of Flemensfirth stepped up massively on her first two runs last time at Huntingdon. She was sent off at 9/4 fav on her debut so she had obviously been showing plenty at home, but she pulled hard and ran no sort of race, beaten 27L in the finish.

Perhaps another indication of the esteem she is held in was the fact that she was thrown into Listed company on her next run at Huntingdon, and after her debut effort she was sent off at 80/1. She could only manage to finish 7th, but she showed an awful lot more than she did on her debut and the horse that finished 2L in front of her in 5th, Colin's Sister, went on to be beaten just half a length in a listed heat at Sandown last month.

Beyond Measure also stepped up massively on that run on her next start, again at Huntingdon, and she did it the hard way by making all and holding off the challenge of Song Saa, who went on to win her next two starts. Don Cantillon's filly did it very nicely and I wouldn't be too worried about the application of a hood as she was looking around a bit when Denis O'Regan gave her a couple of smacks.

Her half sister As I Am was a close 4th (33/1) in this very race back in 2014 before going on to win a couple of listed events, and her dam's half brother Be Fair was 2nd in the Champion bumper here (20/1) back in 2003. Beyond Measure is available to back at odds of 40/1 and if she is cut from the same cloth as some of her relatives she is capable of outrunning those odds and perhaps sneaking a place.


Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Windforpower Can Run Well For Waggott On Wednesday

Well today was a frustrating day and I am sick I opted to put up Sahara Haze instead of Killaro Boy. It was a beautiful day at Fairyhouse today and the ground made no difference to Adrian Murray's gelding who made a mockery of his opening mark of 107. He is a big scopey type and he should make into a lovely chaser next season. Sahara Haze wasn't disgraced at Ludlow but she got tapped for toe just as the race was hotting up and she could only manage to finish in midfield. However, she is not one to write off yet and she is one to watch out for upped again in trip in handicaps.

Watching the all weather racing for the past couple of months I was intrigued to see Tracy Waggott with plenty of runners. None of them managed to win, but I made a mental note to watch out for any of her runners that did have a pipe opener when they returned to turf, and Windforpower goes in the 5f apprentice handicap at 5.05.

This 6yo son of Red Clubs holds no secrets from the handicapper and he has had 75 starts already in his career. However, he has been a fun horse for connections and he has won 10 races as well as being placed in another 26. All bar one of his wins have come at 5f and his last triumph came last year at Wetherby (5.5f good to firm) off a mark of 68. His previous win in April of last year came at Musselburgh on soft (5f)  and he has hit the frame on easy ground on plenty of occasions, including here, so the forecast conditions won't bother him.

He has won off marks ranging from 51 to 71 so he looks very fairly treated off 64 tomorrow. Talented young claimer Josh Doyle takes off another 3lb which could make all the difference and he has a very good draw in stall 2. He didn't run too badly on his seasonal comeback at Southwell last month and that effort should put him spot on for this. I think he is capable of running a huge race at Catterick tomorrow and 14/1 looks a massive price. Hopefully he can get his head in front in what looks a wide open handicap.


Haze Looks Overpriced At Ludlow

Tuesday's cards look hard work from a punting point of view and all the recent rain makes things even trickier. I was really looking forward to seeing Adrian Murray's 7yo Killaro Boy making his handicap debut  in the 3.50 at Fairyhouse, and I think he could prove a lot better than his initial mark of 107. However, it has been lashing it down the last 24 hours in this part of the world and I would have been a lot more confident of his chances on better ground.

He hacked up first time out in a point to point on good to yielding and the form of that race has worked out pretty well. I was at Fairyhouse the day he made his rules debut and he looked a really nice type in the parade ring. However, he got badly bogged down in the heavy ground and he was beaten a distance in 9th. He was 4th next time behind Our Duke at Leopardstown but he was beaten 25L and it was the same story on similar ground last time at Thurles. He is 25/1 with Betfair for today's race and if the ground was better he would be worth backing each way. However, I think I will hold my fire until he gets his ground and I reckon there is another horse at Ludlow that could be worth a second look.

Sahara Haze goes in the 3.25, a 2m 5f mares novice hurdle, and the ground is currently described as good to soft. Phillip Dando's 7yo daughter of Rainbow High has had just the 6 starts under rules, and she has shown more than a glimmer of promise on a couple of those runs. Her three runs in bumpers were nothing to write home about, but she has looked more at home over timber and her penultimate run at Ffos Las (20f good to soft) at 100/1 was a real eye catcher.

She was held up out the back and bar one sticky jump she was very fluent over her hurdles. She was badly outpaced by the front three as they left the back straight and turning for home she looked in big trouble. However, although the front two had flown she seemed to find a second wind as she approached the 2nd last and with her jockey pushing away, not too vigorously mind you, she flew over it and drew alongside the 3rd and 4th in the field coming to the last. She absolutely pinged it and stayed on really strongly for 3rd under hands and heels, closing on the 2nd all the way to the line.

Now it is hard to get too carried away by that form, but she was going to beat the 5/4 fav even if he didn't fall at the last, and with another furlong or two she might have got 2nd. She was dropped down to 17f for her next run at Newton Abbott, and I had absolutely no interest in backing her over that trip, even though she was well backed and was sent off at just 4/1. It was no surprise that she was beaten out of sight as the drop in trip was never going to suit, and it is because of that effort that she is such a big price today.

Her half brother Midnight Haze won over jumps from trips ranging from 20.5f to 25.5f so her pedigree suggests that today's trip of 21f should be ideal, and her run at Ffos Las would indicate the exact same thing. If she was coming here straight after her Ffos Las effort there is no way she would be a 16/1 shot, but her run last time means that she is an inflated price. I am putting a line through that Newton Abbot run because of the trip, and back up to 21f I think she is well worth an each way bet at 16/1 in what looks an open enough race.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Sunday's Selection

Examiner produced a bitterly disappointing run earlier on today and, while he looked to be travelling well a couple of furlongs out, he emptied quickly and ended up finishing nearer last than first. Hopefully the handicapper drops him a couple of pounds and he should be a lot more competitive next time on slightly better ground.

Tomorrow the conditions will be testing again at Doncaster so if you are considering having a bet on anything at the meeting an ability to handle easy ground is essential. One horse that will have no issues with the underfoot conditions is Stake Acclaim, an 85 rated 4yo son of Acclamation who is trained by shrewd handler Dean Ivory. This fella has won 2 of his 10 starts and the first of those was a maiden win on soft ground over 6f here.

He subsequently went on to win a class 4 handicap at Newmarket over 5f (good) off a mark of 80 and he followed that with an arguably even better run at the same track on good to soft over 6f off his new mark of 85. He was beaten by just half a length that day in second and showed that he is capable of running a big race off his current mark.

He was put away for the winter after that excellent effort and he reappeared at the turn of the year with a couple of runs on the all weather at Chelmsford off his revised mark of 87. He was beaten just over 3L in both of those runs but his last effort at Kempton was pretty disappointing back in February. However, those three runs mean he will not be short of fitness for tomorrow's race and with all the rain that has fallen he will relish the return to soft turf. He is drawn in the middle so his pilot Robert Winston will have options at the start, and at odds of 16/1 he is a confident each way selection for what looks a wide open handicap.


Friday, 1 April 2016

Examiner Can Make The Grade At Doncaster

For those that have been reading my blog from the start Examiner is a horse you will be familiar with. I tipped him up for the Cambridgeshire back in September of last year (9f good) at 50/1 and he ran an absolute cracker off a mark of 88, beaten by a length for the win back in 3rd (first home in his group of 13). He was raised 3lb for that excellent run and after a below par performance at Newmarket (10f soft) he arrives here off a mark of 91.

His dam's only run resulted in an emphatic win on heavy ground, and his sire Excellent Art has produced plenty of easy ground winners. He has already showed that he copes with easy ground just as well as good ground with a solid 5th behind Great Park in a 10f handicap at Ascot, and his 2nd at York on good to soft is more evidence that he is at home on a softer surface.

Stuart Williams trains this 5yo gelding and, though he hasn't got a massive string, his horses are running very well. He has been amongst the winners in the last couple of weeks and he had plenty of success at the all weather tracks during the Winter. That is a big positive, as many of the bigger yards will be just getting going in the early stages of the season so knowing whether their horses are in form or not is impossible to tell.

I think Examiner is capable of winning off his current mark of 91 and to be honest I would have fancied him for the Lincoln if he had made the cut. Jamie Spencer has been booked for the ride and he is 8/73 for the yard with 22 placed efforts (over 40% hitting the frame or winning), Both his wins have come over 8f and, while he was campaigned at 9f and 10f last year, this drop back to a mile could be the key to him getting his head back in front. He is drawn right in the middle in stall 10 so that will give Spencer options as to where he wants to race.

 Examiner looks too big a  price to me at 20/1 and he is my each way selection for the first race of the flat season at Doncaster. Hopefully Spencer can work his magic and deliver him at the perfect time. I will also  be putting up an each way selection for the Brocklesby once the markets have been formed later so be sure to come back and have a look.