Saturday, 31 December 2016

Go Bananas And Back Herbie At Exeter

First of all, I would like to wish all my readers a happy, and hopefully prosperous, New Year. 2016 finished on a bad note for us today, as Ruby Wilde was never sighted at Warwick, and it was a bitterly disappointing effort. The winner of the race finished a couple of places behind her last time out, and that added salt to the wound. At least she will get a mark now, and she could turn out to be well treated once she goes tackling handicaps.
Here's Herbie has an excellent record over timber at Exeter.
Tomorrow I like the look of Here's Herbie at Exeter for mother and daughter combination Sue and Lucy Gardner. They have an excellent record at their local track, and I think they may well have had this race in mind for Here's Herbie for some time. He made a pleasing enough return to action a couple of weeks ago at Hereford (16f soft), and he should come on bundles with that run under his belt.

He had an excellent season last year, going close at Cheltenham on his second run back and going on to win a couple of handicaps at Taunton in the Spring. The first of those two class 3 wins came on good to soft off a mark of 122, before he followed up over the same course and distance off a mark of 128. he produced another cracking run on his final start of last season at Worcester, beaten less than 2L in 3rd off a mark of 131.

He has been dropped back down to a rating of 129, just a pound above his last winning mark. He has plenty of form around Exeter, and he has won both handicap hurdle starts over course and distance (class 4 on heavy off 104 and class 3 on gd/sft off 114). He showed that this mark is well within his capabilities when placing off 2lb higher in June, and the usual tongue tie (left off last time) is back on. He will love the ground, trip and track will suit and, at odds of 16/1, he is a confident each way selection in a wide open race.


Friday, 30 December 2016

Drive The Bookies Wilde With Ruby At Warwick

Palmabad finished out of the money for us at Leopardstown, but there was plenty of encouragement to be gleaned from his run. Considering he raced wide throughout and was reined back a couple of times by his jockey, he did well to finish 6th. Bar one sticky jump he was slick over his fences, and he travelled really well. He is one for the notebook and I will be backing him on his next couple of runs. Especially if he is dropped a couple of pounds and a good claimer is booked.
Will Kennedy was placed on his only previous ride for McPherson.
For a Saturday, the fare is pretty average and the Challow Hurdle is the highlight. There are a number of interesting contenders in the race, but I have no strong fancy. Ami Debois could make a bold bid dropped back to 20f, but I actually fancy another of Graeme McPherson's earlier on in the afternoon at Warwick.Will Kennedy takes over from Kielan Woods on Ruby Wilde, and this 5yo daughter of Oscar could well be suited by the step up to 21f  in the mare's hurdle at 12.30, if her last two runs are anything to go by.

She is beautifully bred, out of a Definite Article mare, and her brother Pause And Ponder is a point/2m3f chase/2m6f hurdle winner. Her dam is a half-sister to Grade 3 20f hurdle winner Get It Done, who herself is out of a half-sister to Grand National winner Royal Athlete. She has hit the frame only once from 5 starts, a short head 2nd on her third outing in a bumper at Hexham (16f gd). She was put away after that run last May, and she reappeared in October in a 19.5f (gd/sft) maiden hurdle at Chepstow.

She was outpaced as they approached the second last at Chepstow, and she had a lot more horses in front of her than behind her. However, she stayed on very well in the closing stages for 6th, beaten 16L for the win but only a neck behind the 5th. The winner of that race, Elegant Escape, is just 15/2 for the Challow. It was a creditable effort on her first run back from a break and, given how she stayed on, it was a surprise to see her dropped back to 18.5f next time at Exeter (gd/sft).

She had a good position early, but her jockey soon reined her back into the rear of mid division. She jumped really well, but was given too much to do, and again she stayed on as though a step up in trip would suit. She gets that tomorrow at Warwick, and I think 21f on soft will be right up her street. She has a lot to find with the top two, but the fav has shown her best form on a sound surface.

Will Kennedy has had just the one ride for McPherson, and it resulted in a place on a 12/1 shot in a mare’s novice hurdle that was backed in from 16s. Now, it could be the case that Ruby Wilde is just out for another spin to get a mark, and for that reason stakes should be kept to a minimum. However, odds of 16/1 in a race that lacks strength in depth are too tempting to refuse, and if she puts her best foot forward she could hit the frame.


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Palm Could Improve On Handicap Bow At Leopardstown

Unfortunately, neither of my selections managed to reach the frame on Tuesday and the less said about Dromnea's effort the better. He ran and jumped well for a long way but he emptied as they turned for home and finished well down the field. He is a frustrating horse, and perhaps he needs slightly better ground to be seen at his very best.
Lagostovegas ran a cracker on Tuesday.
Lagostovegas, on the other hand, ran an absolute screamer and it is hard to believe she didn't place given her position when they jumped the last. Perhaps the wide route she took cost her, as she had no more to give in the final 50 yards and she faded into 6th. I still believe she is a well treated filly, and with that run behind her she should go close next time.

I was at the track on Tuesday, and the undoubted highlight was the scintillating performance by Douvan. To be honest, he didn't stand out like I thought he would in the parade ring, but he certainly didn't disappoint on the track. He jumped brilliantly and travelled powerfully, and he had the rest in big trouble a long way out. He won as he liked, hard on the steel, and he will be one of the Mullins 'bankers' at the festival in March.

Tomorrow there is another quality card of action at Leopardstown, with the likes of Battleford and Nichols Canyon short priced favourites to cap off a brilliant week for Willie Mullins. However, the one I like goes in the 20f handicap hurdle at 15.05, and I think Palmabad could improve for the switch to handicap company for John Queally and David Mullins. Queally has another interesting contender in Long Way Back for JP McManus and market support should be noted, but I prefer the chances of Palmabad.

This 5yo gelded son of Kapgarde has a lovely pedigree, and he is closely related to French 20f G3 winner Royale Francois and G1 winner Milord Thomas. He showed plenty of promise on his debut in a decent Naas maien hurdle(16f hvy) last February, finishing 4th, 15L behind the winner Vigil and 12L behind the 2nd, Coeur Joyeux.

He again ran a nice race when reappearing at Galway (16f yld) in a bumper in October, finishing 4th behind Joey Sasa, a horse that won here during the week. The 2nd and 5th from that race have both won by wide margins since, and it is form that has worked out well.

Palmabad was sent hurdling after that excellent effort at Galway, and he finished 9th of 22 at Naas (16f yld/sft) back in November in a race won by Saturnas, who was victorious here on Tuesday. Palmabad actually jumped and travelled pretty nicely, but his jockey repeatedly encountered traffic problems as the pace lifted and the horse wasn't given a hard time. He fell next time out at Navan, and he finished well beaten at Punchestown on his first crack at 20f (yld sft) last time out.

The handicapper has handed the son of Kapgarde a mark of just 108 for his handicap debut, and on the form of his first two bumper runs, and his hurdling debut, I think that could underestimate his true ability. He is bred for tomorrow's trip of 20f, and the ground should not be an issue given that it is the same as it was for his best run at Galway.

David Mullins is a top class pilot so he won't lack for assistance from the saddle, and his cousins Paddy and Danny have had plenty of success when riding for owner Mrs Mee. Palmabad races off a nice low weight of 10st 9lbs and at odds of 33/1 he is worth backing each way for small stakes.


Monday, 26 December 2016

Vegas Could Be Chucked In At Leopardstown

Caolaneoin ran a decent race earlier, travelling well under substitute jockey Mark Enright. However, Enright struggled to get him settled in the first couple of furlongs, and he seemed unbalanced for a good few of the early jumps. Nevertheless, Caolaneoin moved stylishly through the field as they turned for home, and he was bang there with every chance until being badly hampered at the last. He was under pressure at the time admittedly, and a place was probably the best he could hope for.

The best performance of the day came at Kempton, where Thistlecrack produced a stunning display to beat a small but select field in the King George. This fella has some engine and, bar one or two hairy moments, his jumping was spectacular.

The big one tomorrow is the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown, and on the forecast ground I think Dromnea might outrun his odds of 40/1 for Mouse Morris. I am convinced this fella has a big pot in him, and he is 2lb higher than when a decent 7th in this race last year, beaten just 3.5L by Gilgamboa for 3rd.

However, the bottomless ground that day was never going to suit this son of Presenting, and his very best form has come on soft or better. He would have needed his comeback run at Punchestown (25f gd) when a well beaten 4th in a Grade 3, but it was much more like it back in handicap company at Galway next time out off 130 (22f yld). He was just done for toe in the final furlong up the hill by Hash Brown, but he stayed on well for a clear 2nd, beaten just over 4L at the finish.
Dromnea looks overpriced in the Paddy Power. 
He was dropped back in trip and stepped up in class on his last start at Clonmel (20f yld) and he finished 4th in that Grade 2, beaten 10L for the win by Alechi Inois, but only half a length behind 148 rated Monksland, who he was conceding 4lb to. It really was a cracking effort over an inadequate trip, and at odds of 40/1 he looks worthy of a pound or two each way in a wide open looking renewal.

Another horse that looks criminally overpriced at Leopardstown tomorrow is the David Harry Kelly trained Lagostovegas. She gets in off a feather weight of just 9-12 in the 2.30, a 2m handicap hurdle, and on some of her form she looks absolutely chucked in off a mark of just 119.

This 4yo daughter of Footstepsinthesand has only missed out on a placing twice in seven starts over timber, winning once and placing on four other occasions. She also managed to win a 13f (sft) flat handicap here during the summer off a mark of 70, so she will definitely handle the track.

She was pulled up when last seen at Listowel, but she was likely over the top and she has been given a nice 3 month break to recharge her batteries. She ran a cracker at this meeting last year, finishing an excellent 3rd beaten 9L behind subsequent festival winner Ivanovich Gorbatov. Tocororo was 3.75L behind her in 4th and he has since won a grade 3. Ben Dundee, a further 3L back hacked up in a maiden by 7L next time out, so the form has plenty of substance.

The form of her previous maiden runs also stands up to scrutiny, 6L behind subsequent Grade 3 and Grade 2 winner Rashaan, She was the same distance behind Grade 1 winner Footpad at Gowran (16f soft) and the 3rd home that day (7L behind Lagostovegas) went close off 127 at Cork last month.

If she was to reproduce the form of any of those maiden runs tomorrow surely she has to have a huge chance, and Jonathan Moore is a good booking. Harry Kelly pulled off a massive coup with Moyle Park at Leopardstown a few years ago, and I think Lagostovegas is worth backing each way at odds of 33/1 tomorrow.

                                                                  3.00: DROMNEA E/W 40/1

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Caolaneoin Could Spring Surprise At Leopardstown

First of all, I would like to wish all my readers a merry Xmas and I hope the winnings from Back Before Dawn (adv 25/1) helped cover some of the festive expenses. He was well backed throughout the day and, to be honest, the result was never really in doubt. He was chucked in, and Brassil rode him with supreme confidence. He travelled sweetly, pinged the last and hosed up by over 7L.
Caolaneoin looks overpriced at odds of 20/1.
There is a veritable feast of action to get stuck into on Stephens' Day, with top class races scheduled in both Ireland and the UK. The battle between Cue Card and Thistlecrack in the King George should be a joy to behold but, at the likely odds, I will be just watching rather than betting on that race. The one bet I am going to have tomorrow goes at Leopardstown, and I think Caolaneoin could be ready to run a big race in the 2.55, a 17f handicap chase.

This 10yo son of King's Theatre can be hard to catch right, but if he is on a going day on Monday he is more than capable of running a big race at odds of 20/1. His trainer Shane Nolan does very well with his small string, and he had a good winner with Charlie Stout at Thurles last week. He has booked Robbie Colgan for the ride, and he was on board for his wide margin beginners chase win at Naas last season (16f hvy).

Caolaneoin showed some more than useful form in his younger days, and he won his bumper here on his 2nd start for his then trainer Seamus Fahey. He was mixing it at Grade 2 level after winning his maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse (16f sft) but he never really progressed over timber and he didn't show much when moving to Colm Murphy's and going chasing in 2013/14.

However, he started to show some of his old spark after moving to Shane Nolan in January 2015 and he showed that there was life left in him yet with a good 4th in a valuable handicap at Gowran (18f soft) off 115. He went off the boil after that, but he popped up in that beginners chase at Naas at 20/1 back in March of this year. He has improved with each of his three runs so far this season, and his best effort yet came when chasing home the highly touted Peoples Park three weeks ago at Fairyhouse (17f yld).

He jumped and travelled sweetly that day, and between the last two fences he looked like he might win. However, the unexposed winner was too good and Caolaneoin had to settle for 2nd, beaten 6.5L at the finish. He races off 121, just 1lb higher than last time, at Leopardstown tomorrow and, being a previous course winner, we know he will handle the track. The forecast soft ground is perfect, his yard has been amongst the winners and, at odds of 20/1, I think Caolaneoin is well worth a couple of quid each way.


Saturday, 17 December 2016

Dawn Looks Well Treated On Chase Handicap Debut At Thurles

Fergall ran a superb race for us earlier at 33/1, and when he scooted 6L clear after the 3rd last I was jumping around like a lunatic. The first time cheekpieces really sharpened up his jumping and, though he was no match for the impressive winner, he kept on well for a clear 3rd. Jimmy Mullins will be delighted with that run and he will be aimed at similar races on nice ground in the Spring.
Back Before Dawn is potentially well treated on chase handicap debut. 
Tomorrow I fancy one at Thurles, though confidence is not quite as high with this one as it was with Fergall. Back Before Dawn makes her chase handicap debut in the 1.00, a 3m heat, and I think she is potentially very well treated off a mark of 102, with talented young claimer Conor Brassil taking off another 7lb. He has had just 5 rides for Sandra Hughes, and he has won on two of them.

This 7yo daughter of Oscar won her maiden over 16f at Leopardstown back in January 2014, and she was given an opening mark of 114. She ran poorly on her seasonal reappearance in 2015 (20f sft) off that rating, and it was a similar story in a mare's event over the same trip, this time on yielding. However, back in handicap company next time out she ran a huge race at Punchestown off 110, relishing the step up to 22f on soft and keeping on well for 2nd.

Her form nosedived after that hugely promising run, and she was well beaten on her next three hurdle starts. Given her pedigree it was no surprise that connections decided to try their hand at chasing, but there wasn't much encouragement to be gleaned from her first try at Kilbeggan (20f gd). However, she was never going to be suited by the ground on that occasion, and there was a lot more to like about her run at Naas (19f soft) back from a break in November.

It was clear that she wasn't going to Naas to win the race, but she did jump really nicely in rear before staying on well in the home straight past beaten horses to finish 6th of 17. She shaped as though she was crying out for further, but Hughes dropped her back to 16f (sft) next time at Wexford. She was again hunted round in rear under Roger Loughran, and she eventually finished 6th of 14, beaten 30L for the win.

She has been handed a mark of just 102 for her handicap chase debut, and Hughes steps her up massively in trip to 24f. With Brassil's claim Back Before Dawn is effectively 15lb lower than when a closing 2nd beaten just 1L over timber at Punchestown (22f soft) and if she can reproduce that over the bigger obstacles she has to have every chance of reaching the frame at odds of 25/1.


Friday, 16 December 2016

Fergall No Forlorn Hope At Ascot

Prince Mahler pulled his chance away in the early stages earlier this week, and the money that came for him was lost. He jumped well and travelled well for a long way, but those early exertions took their toll and he faded after the 2nd last. Tomorrow's fancy goes at Ascot, and I think Fergall is ridiculously overpriced for Jimmy Mullins and Kevin Jones.
Fergall looks ready to run a big race at Ascot. 

This lightly raced 9yo son of Norwich has obviously had some issues, but he has returned this season with a couple of cracking efforts, and he was a close 4th behind Sternrubin over course and distance last time off 135. He had previously shown he was in good heart with a cracking run on the all weather at Kempton, 3rd in a class 3 handicap off 84 at 66/1.

This gelding has won 3 and been 2nd on 3 of his 14 starts over hurdles and his last win came off a mark of 136 in a class 2 heat at Plumpton back on April 2014. He followed that up with a respectable 8th in the Galway Hurdle off 143, but his form nosedived afterwards. He was tried chasing but that experiment was quickly aborted after a poor run at Plumpton.

He has since won on the all weather at Lingfield in a flat maiden (13f) before running poorly in the Swinton on his final run of last season off 141. He has returned to action this season in much better form, and he races off his last winning mark of 136. Kevin Jones takes off a very handy 5lb, so effectively he is 5lb lower than when hacking up by 4.5L at Plumpton. Good to soft ground is perfect, he is 1lb better off with Sternrubin, 5lb better off with Modus and at odds of 33/1 he has to have a place chance at least in a wide open looking renewal.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Tactics Could Be A Shrewd Bet At Newbury

Captain Redbeard finished 4th, my least favourite position, but in truth it was a poor 4th and well off a place. He never travelled throughout the race, though his jumping was much better than on his chase debut. He was again held up in rear, and as he showed over hurdles he is best when racing prominently. He is definitely not one to write off yet, and it will be interesting to see where he turns up next.
Moloney rides Shrewd Tactics for the first time.
Tomorrow I like one in the 3.10 at Newbury, an 18.5f Novice Hurdle. Shrewd Tactics was picked up at the sales last December for a cool £70k by Evan Williams after dotting up in a point to point (24f gd/yld) by 6L at Dowth Hall. He made his debut under rules last January when he was a closing 2nd at Warwick (16f sft), shaping as if further would almost certainly suit.

He was put away after that run, and he made his reappearance in a maiden at Uttoxeter last month, where it looked as though the step up to 20f would be ideal. On the face of it a 7th place finish beaten 38L looks disappointing, but the form of the race has actually worked out really well. Five of the horses that completed have run since, and three of them have won.

Mr McGo was over 6L behind the selection, and he won a novice next time out. Duel At Dawn was 10L ahead and he also won a novice on his next outing. The 2nd home, Above Board, beat Couer Blimey cosily last time. If you consider that it was the Williams' horse first run for over a year at Uttoxeter I think it wasn't a bad return to action at all, and hopefully he strips a lot fitter tomorrow.

The trip of 20f might have just stretched him too at this stage of his career, so the drop back to 18.5f is another positive. His two siblings that have seen the track have both won races at trips ranging from 19f to 24f. He was very well backed prior to his last run, and his price tumbled from 17/2 into 7/2 before the off.

He must have been showing plenty at home, and I think he could produce a much improved display tomorrow with stable jockey Paul Moloney taking over from Leighton Aspell and with that comeback run behind him. At odds of 33/1 he is surely worthy of a couple of quid each way in what admittedly looks a competitive novice hurdle.


Saturday, 10 December 2016

Redbeard Could Plunder Pot At Carlisle

I didn't fancy anything on Saturday, and the two I did consider putting up didn't figure. It was a bullet dodged, and hopefully Sunday's selection is worth the wait. Driftwood Haze didn't run well at Cheltenham on Friday, and as soon as I saw him racing prominently I knew it wasn't going to be our day. He is a horse that is best when held up, and watch out for him when he heads back to Ffos Las.

Floresco ran a huge race at odds of 40/1, just missing out on 3rd by an ever diminishing 3/4L. He put in one or two slow jumps at a crucial stage, and with a cleaner round he might have gone even closer. He is a useful horse and he is capable of doing damage off his current mark for Richard Woollacott. Sunday's selection goes in the 2.40 at Carlisle, a 20f class 3 handicap chase, and there are some promising types in the field.
Captain Redbeard is the apple of Coltherd's eye.
The one I like is Captain Redbeard, for father and son combo Sam and Stuart Coltherd. This 7yo son of Bach was a more than useful handicap hurdler last season, He won 3 of his last 4 starts, starting out with an 8L stroll over 20f (gd/sft) at Sedgefield in January. After a poor run at Carlisle (17f hvy), when the trip and ground were valid excuses, he bounced back to form at the same track back up at 19.5f, hosing up by 8L off 114 in a class 4.

He saved the best until last, with a 7L demolition job in a class 3 contest off 124 at Kelso (21.5f (gd/sft). The 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th from that race have all gone on to win races since, and afterwards Coltherd described him 'as potentially the best we ever had' and 'he is a chaser for the future without a doubt'. He was put away for his summer break after that last win, and he made his reappearance in a novice chase at Kelso (23f gd/sft) in October.

He was badly in need of the run that day, and he made a few mistakes early on. He was handed a mark of 130 for his chase handicap debut, again at Kelso, and he jumped slow early on but improved as the race wore on. He was detached by a good 15-20L at one stage, but as his jumping warmed up he made ground easily and looked a big danger behind the front two as they turned into the straight. However, the exertions of closing the gap took their toll, and he ended up a well held 3rd, beaten 26L.

He will have learned loads from those two first outings over the bigger obstacles, and the handicapper has also dropped him to a mark of 128. I am hoping that he is ridden more aggressively tomorrow, especially over the first couple of fences. If he can get a good rhythm going early on he has the engine to run a massive race, and he is only 4lb above his last winning hurdle mark. Soft ground will be fine, he is a previous course winner and he should be at peak fitness after his last couple of runs. If he puts in a good round of jumping, he could hit the frame at odds of 16/1.


Thursday, 8 December 2016

Haze Could Leave Them In A Daze At Cheltenham

The less said about my last selection the better. Phil Kirby's charge ran an absolute stinker, and it was really tough going at Hexham. The writing was on the wall a long way from home, and Cleve Cottage went out like a light once the leaders turned the screw. It was a poor effort, and he was pulled up before the 3rd last. Tipping up horses at big prices isn't always easy, and that is why I always advise to keep your stakes at a sensible level.
Phil Dando is a tricky customer.
On Friday I fancy a couple at silly odds at Cheltenham, and I can't believe that Driftwood Haze has been chalked up at 28/1 for the 2.40, a class 2 24f handicap hurdle. Philip Dando's 8yo gelding took a while to get off the mark under rules, but he managed to win two handicap hurdles at Ffos Las last season. The first came off a mark of just 109 last March (22f gd/sft) in a class 4 handicap and he hacked up by 12L from Bishop Wulstan.

He again obliged returned to Ffos Las (22f sft) when upped to class 3 company after a poor effort at Newton Abbott. That win came by a length from Suit Yourself, and he was likely over the top by the time of his last run of the season at Ludlow when he was 5th, beaten 12L off 132. He was dropped 3lb for that run, and he was put away for his summer break.

He made his seasonal reappearance back in the familiar surroundings of Ffos Las (24f gd) last month, and he ran a huge race behind the progressive Tobefair, beaten just 3L (2.5L behind Herbert Park). He is 3lb better off with that rival today, yet he is over three times his price. He just got tired in the last 100yds in that race and, with another run behind him at Ffos Las when 3rd to Sirop De Menthe (24f soft), he is likely to be at peak fitness tomorrow. I think there could be more to come from him back on good ground at this trip and, at odds of 28/1, he looks well worthy of a small each way bet.

I also think Floresco could be worth a small interest in the next race, a 2m class 3 handicap hurdle. Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with his trainer Richard Woollacott, and he has done us plenty of favours in the past. This 6yo son of Santiago is still relatively lightly raced over timber, and from 10 starts he has won twice and been placed on a further 4 occasions.

It was hard not to be taken by the manner of his win at Newton Abbott (18f gd) back in May off a mark of 123, and he did his best to throw that race away with a couple of sketchy jumps at the business end. However, he won with a fair bit of authority, and he gave the impression there was more to come.

He can be forgiven his seasonal comeback effort at Kempton over 21f as that trip was never going to suit. That run will have blown away the cobwebs, and he should be a lot fitter for tomorrow's contest. He has been dropped a pound to a mark of 130, and Conor O Farrell keeps the ride. The drop back in trip should suit, the ground is ideal and his trainer will be eager to break his Cheltenham hoodoo. I think he looks overpriced, also at 28/1, and he is well worth a small interest at those sort of odds. A little each way double on my two selections might be worth chancing too.

                                              3.15 FLORESCO E/W 28/1

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Heavy Ground To Suit Cottage At Hexham

The fog was thick at Southwell this morning and it is difficult to analyse the race that Arthurthedelegator ran. He was dropped in as I thought he would be in the first furlong, but after that the field disappeared from view. When they reappeared with a furlong to go the front two were clear, but the selection was a few lengths behind and he stayed on well to hold 3rd by a neck, landing a tasty each way touch for those of us who got on early at 33s. I fancy another one at Hexham tomorrow in the 25.5f handicap at 2.45. and Cleeve Cottage should relish the return to heavy ground.
Phil Kirby has a decent strike rate at Hexham.
This 8yo son of Presenting took a while to get off the mark under rules, and his strike rate is far from prolific. Connections had to be patient with this gelding, and he eventually obliged in a class 5 novice handicap on soft ground at Uttoxeter (23.5f) on his 14th start off a mark of 95. That win wasn't out of turn, as he had run well on his previous two starts, 3rd at Wetherby (24f hvy) off 83 and then a close 2nd at Carlisle (25f hvy) in a class 4, again off 83. That form was franked when the winner, W Six Times, went on to score by 12L off 102 on his next start.

The form of Cleeve Cottage's win also took a boost when the 2nd home, who he beat by a neck, went on to finish a good 2nd again next time out off 6lb higher. Phil Kirby's charge went back into his shell after that win, though he has had excuses on his three runs since. He was well beaten in a handicap at Aintree on his final run of the season in June, and it was a similar story on his first two runs back this season. However, on all three occasions the ground was way too lively, and it was no surprise to see him beaten a distance in all three.

However, every cloud has a silver lining, and the handicapper has dropped Cleeve Cottage down to a workable mark. From a high of 103 he has fallen back to 98, and with useful claimer Nathan Moscrop taking off 5lbs he effectively races off 2lb lower than for his win. He should be fit from his two spins this season, and I think we could see a much better horse on the forecast heavy ground. Kirby has sent out 8 winners and had 21 placed from 77 runners at Hexham, and at odds of 20/1 hopefully Cleeve Cottage can bounce back to form and enhance that fine record on Wednesday.


Monday, 5 December 2016

Arthur Could Relish Step Up In Trip At Southwell

Prince Mahler was frustratingly a non runner today as Ludlow fell victim to the weather. I was looking forward to seeing him jump a fence, and hopefully it won't be too long before he is out again. Some of you might have noticed that Indiana Dawn, a horse I fancied to run well at Southwell when that too was called off, ran at Lingfield today. I didn't put her up as I think she will be better suited by a more forgiving surface. She ran another promising race under a tender ride, and watch out for her when she turns up at Southwell again, hopefully off a couple of pound lower.
Delegator has had some success with his first crop.
Tomorrow I am going back to Southwell for another nursery selection, and I think Arthurthedelegator looks a massive price in the opener at 11.50. This class 6 handicap will be run over a mile, and I think that will really suit this nicely bred colt by Delegator. He has shown promise on 2 of his 4 starts, and he was a big eye catcher upped to 7f on his handicap debut off a mark of 65 at Wolves last month under Nathan Evans.

He was reined back early on and he pulled quite hard under restraint for Evans. He met trouble not once, but twice as the race hotted up, and when he did eventually find daylight the leaders had flown. He only felt the warmth of the whip once, and he made late gains under hands and heels to finish a closing 5th. There is plenty of stamina on the dam side of his pedigree, and lots of black type too. His sire was a crack miler, chasing home Sea The Stars in the Guineas.

Kevin Stott has been booked for the ride by new kid on the block Olly Greenall, and that could be significant. Greenall has had just 2 winners since he started training instead of riding, and Stott was on board for both those winners. The draw in stall 11 is a negative, but Arthurthedelegator will likely be dropped in anyway.

Hopefully he settles better early on and with a couple of front runners in the race hopefully he gets a good pace to aim at. The money has come for the Beckett horse, but at odds of 33/1 I would much rather have a small interest each way on Arthurthedelegator. If he backs up his last run and improves for the new trip he shouldn't be far away.


Chasing Could Make Mahler At Ludlow

It was a poor day for the blog today, with just one winner and a 2nd on a difficult day. Landofhopeandglory was impressive in the opener, and he has bigger days ahead of him. Apple's Jade prevailed in a thrilling Hatton's Grace, repelling the late challenge of Vroum Vroum Mag and showing what a tough filly she is.

Anibale Fly was given a shocker by Geraghty and, though Coney Island was a good winner, I got the impression that Anibale Fly had plenty left in the tank. Whiteout and Macnicholson never landed a blow, and Kilgefen Star was in the process of running a good race until a shuddering mistake on the final circuit.
Mahler is a promising NH Stallion.

Tomorrow I think Prince Mahler looks an interesting contender on his chasing debut in the 20f handicap at 1.00 at Ludlow. This lightly raced 6yo son of Mahler is 0 from 8 under rules, his best efforts coming in maiden hurdles at Chepstow (both 16f soft) in November last year for his former handler Caroline Keevil. He stayed on nicely for 3rd behind The Gipper on the first occasion, and again kept on well behind Maxanisi next time out.

He didn't show much on his last three starts for Keevil, and he reappeared for his new trainer Richard Woollacott at Fontwell off a mark of 100 in a good ground 21.5f handicap hurdle. He was heavily restrained early on by Tom O'Brien, and he travelled wide for much of the race. His jumping caught my eye early on, and I think that chasing could be the making of him.

He is out of a dam that is related to a trio of multiple chase winners, and all three won over today's trip of 20f. He is out of Coolmore sire Mahler, and he has produced some useful sorts already, including the exciting Grade 2 Hurdle winner Sutton Place. Mahler is still relatively young as a national hunt sire, so whether he is capable of producing quality chasers remains to be seen.

However, his daughter Presenting Mahler, bred along similar lines to the selection, won a mare's beginner's chase at Sligo before going on to earn black type by finishing 2nd in a Listed chase. I think Prince Mahler could prove to be better than his opening mark of 98 over fences, and Daryl Jacob is a good booking. He is 11/99 for Richard Woollacott (5/35 in chases) and at odds of 20/1 I think Prince Mahler is worth a couple of quid each way in an open looking race.


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Stars Out In Force At Fairyhouse On Sunday

Dare To Endeavour parted ways with Harry Skelton at the Foinavon fence (14th), and the horse I almost tipped up was beaten a short head at 22s. Sod's law at its finest. It was a pity the McNamara horse unseated because although it might have been worrying to see him drift back into midfield, he did the exact same last year before staying on strongly in the closing stages. Sunday will see a host of high class horses strutting their stuff at Fairyhouse, and if I wasn't down West I would be going. There will be festival clues aplenty with the relatively decent ground, and below are my thoughts on what should be a tremendous day of racing.

Anibale Could Fly In Drinmore. 

Joseph O'Brien has had a strong start to his first proper season as a National Hunt trainer, and it is hardly surprising given the ammunition he has at his disposal. Landofhopeandglory is one of the many high class flat recruits he has acquired from his Dad, and this fella was beaten just 2L in a Group 2 on the level (rated 103). He has looked a serious tool over timber, and he couldn't have been more impressive on his last two starts, winning both under hands and heels. He is a best price of 5/4 and I think he could be hard to beat.

Gordon Elliott trains his main market rival in Mega Fortune, and he was 3rd in a flat handicap off a rating of 80. He hosed up at Downpatrick last time out, but he could be up against a different class of animal in O'Brien's charge. My suggestion for the forecast is Elliott's other runner, the Gigginstown owned Dakota Moirette. This fella was beaten a nose in France by a horse that has since won a 3yo hurdle race by 10L. This gelding got no further than the first on his Irish debut at Gowran, but with a clear round tomorrow he could run well at odds of 25/1.



The one I like for this high quality Grade 1 hurdle is Gordon Elliott's grey son of Montmarte, Labaik. This French recruit didn't pull up any trees during his flat career, but he has looked a different proposition over timber. He won in the style of a good horse when winning his maiden on good ground at Punchestown, travelling beautifully and showing a smart turn of foot to put the race to bed.

He was stepped up to Grade 3 company in a Novice Hurdle at Navan next time out, and half a mile from home he looked in big trouble under Ruby Walsh. However, once Walsh got stuck into him he closed the gap to the leaders between the last two fences, and in the end he won going away, The De Bromhead horse was also impressive when winning at Cork, but at 11/2 I would rather be with Labaik in what looks a very competitive renewal of the Royal Bond.



This year's Hatton Grace is all about Willie Mullins' super mare Vroum Vroum Mag. This 7yo remains unbeaten after 10 starts under Mullins, and her wins include Grade 1 successes at the Aintree and Punchestown festivals. The yielding ground will be fine for her, she won easy first time out last year and she will have plenty of supporters at odds of 5/6.

One that could run well at huge odds is another Mullins mare in Whiteout. This 5yo daughter of Samum broke her Grade 1 duck when accounting for Limini at Punchestown (18f gd/yld) and she will love the nice ground at Fairyhouse tomorrow. She ran a cracker after a break at Cheltenham last March, and she could outrun her current odds of 33/1.



This Grade A handicap hurdle looks a devilishly difficult puzzle to decipher, and matters aren't helped by JP McManus owning 7 of the 20 runners. You would imagine that at least one or two of them will run well, and if the market and jockey bookings are to be believed then Campeador is the one. However, odds of 7/2 in a race like this for a horse returning from a layoff, that fell last time out (admittedly when running a huge race at Cheltenham) look just a tad skinny to me.

A very tentative each way suggestion is Macnicholson for Jessie Harrington and Robbie Power. He fell on his last hurdle run at Punchestown back in April, and he was given a few months to get over that mishap before reappearing at Dundalk last month. He ran a couple of moderate races, over 12f and 16f, but he should have come on a lot for those two outings. He is racing off a mark of 138 here, just 3lb above the rating off which he was a close 2nd to Some Article at Punchestown on ground similar to today's. A return to form wouldn't come as a big surprise, and he is the each way suggestion at odds of 33/1 in a wide open race.



This year's Drinmore is a fascinating renewal and 5 of the 7 participants won last time out. In fact, the top three have won their last 2 races. The one I am going to side with is the Tony Martin trained Anibale Fly. This useful hurdler won off 135 at Punchestown last April off 135, and he was put away after that before making his reappearance in a quality Beginners Chase at Navan (17f yld/sft). He won cosily under hands and heels from Martello Tower, and that gelding franked the form here on Saturday.

The 3rd home at Navan, Gurteen, is also very highly thought of and it was a visually impressive display. He is versatile trip wise, and he showed at Punchestown that today's trip of 20f holds no fears. He has gears, he will like the decent ground and Barry Geraghty is back on board. The 6yo son of Assessor is an exciting prospect, and he could take the beating at odds of 4/1.



The one I am interested in here at a price is a horse that has run two absolute stinkers for his new trainer Robbie McNamara. Kilgefen Star was formerly trained by Michael Smith in the UK, and he won 3 races for him, including a 23.5f chase (soft) at Kelso off a mark of 129. His other two wins came over timber (22.5f gd/sft and 18f gd) so he is versatile regarding ground and he should have no problems with conditions at Fairyhouse.

That win last November was the last time that this 8yo son of Saddler's Hall produced his best, and he was beaten by a combined total of 59L on his final two starts for Smith. He reappeared over timber at Galway in a first time hood in October and he ran no sort of race.

The hood was kept on when he returned to chasing at Punchestown last month, but again Kilgefen Star was below par and he was pulled up. Obviously he needs to be better than that, but on the plus side he has been dropped to a mark of just 123. He hacked up by 9L off 6lb higher nearly a year ago, and the way he stayed on that day suggested today's trip of 3m5f could be within reach. O'Regan has been booked, the hood is off and hopefully the handbrake is too. At odds of 28/1 he is a tentative each way selection for small stakes.



All the usual suspects are represented in the finale, and this race has produced some classy winners. Identity Thief and Al Ferof are among the previous victors, and it will be interesting to see if there is anything of that calibre this year. The one I am going to chance at a huge price, purely on pedigree, is the Shane Nolan trained filly Simone, who can currently be backed at odds of 100/1. This filly is bred to be very useful, and if a horse with a pedigree like hers was trained by Elliott, Mullins or O'Brien she would be single figure odds.

She is by top class national hunt sire Presenting, and she is out of a dual bumper winning dam. Simone's ill fated half brother Simonsig needs no introduction, and he won his bumper at Fairyhouse (18f gd) before going on to much bigger things. Her other half brother, Drumcliff, also won his bumper easily first time up, and she is also a half sister to another bumper winner. On paper she makes lots of appeal, her trainer has had two 2nds from his last two runners, and this filly has to be worth a pound or two each way at absolutely massive odds.


Friday, 2 December 2016

Moment Of Truth For Dare At Aintree

Exeter unfortunately fell foul to the freezing weather conditions, so we didn't get a run with Hija. Hopefully there will be no problems at Aintree tomorrow, where the Becher is the highlight. The Tingle Creek will be run at Sandown too on a bumper day of National Hunt action. Un De Sceaux is a warm order for that after a lorry load of cash was squandered on the withdrawn Douvan in the ante-post market (thanks to advice from Ruby...what a gent!).
Dare To Endeavour looks a big price at 18/1.
Last year I managed to find the winner of this race in Highland Lodge at 25/1 (read here) and I was sorely tempted to put him up again this year. He is only 5lb higher this time around, but the ground might be just a touch too lively for him. When you are looking for a winner over these formidable national fences it often pays to stick with horses that have completed the course, and last year's runner up Dare To Endeavour is my idea of a solid each way bet tomorrow. 

This 9yo gelding is by Alflora, and he ran an absolute cracker behind Highland Lodge here last year off a mark of 134. He hasn't pulled up any trees in 4 runs since, but three of those efforts came over unsuitably short trips. He ran poorly over 21f on bad ground on his final two starts of last season, and he produced another moderate run over 20f on yielding ground in a handicap hurdle at Listowel on his seasonal comeback. 

However, he showed definite signs of returning to form last time out in the Munster National at Limerick (24f yld), 5th beaten 20L off a mark of 134. He stayed on well behind the principals, and that outing should have put him right for this. He gets in off a mark of 135 tomorrow, just a pound higher than for last year's 2L 2nd. He had to give the winner 2lb, but he gets 2lb off him tomorrow, so that is a 4lb swing. 

His wins have all come on soft or heavy ground, but he produced his highest RPR on good ground at Sandown. It won't be rattling quick tomorrow at Aintree, and once there is even a small bit of an ease he should be fine. His trainer has targeted this race, he has shown he can be competitive off his current mark and he has experience over the fences. He gets in off a feather weight, and Harry Skelton is a good booking. I think he looks well overpriced at odds of 18/1 and he is the each way suggestion in an open looking race. 


Drop In Trip To Suit Hija At Exeter

Back To Love sent me back to the drawing board with a pathetic effort at Newcastle. He never travelled, and the writing was on the wall a long way from home. Our losing run has continued, but hopefully Hija Can get us back on track at Exeter tomorrow. This 5yo mare is trained by Devon based handler Gail Haywood, and she could run well at her local track.
Haywood's Hija Could Run Well At Exeter.
This daughter of Avonbridge is bred to be a sprinter more than a hurdler, but there is some stamina on the dam side of her pedigree. She proved she has an aptitude for jumping when running out a shock 80/1 winner in a maiden hurdle at Newton Abbott (17f gd/sft) on her first run for this yard back in April 2015. She has failed to get her head in front since, but she has shown definite signs of returning to form on her last couple of runs.

She came back from her Summer break at Newton Abbott (21.5f gd) and she ran a cracker to finish 3rd, beaten just over 9L off a mark of 89 under Alice Mills. The trip was never going to suit her, and she arguably ran a better race dropped back to 19f at Taunton last time out off 2lb lower. It again looked as though the trip slightly stretched her, and as the race hotted up she just couldn't go with the leaders. She still kept on for 4th, beaten 9L for the win but only 3.75L off 3rd.

Those two runs should have put her in tip-top shape, and she drops back to 17f on good to soft ground tomorrow, the same conditions as for her last win. James Banks comes in for the ride and he was on board for her comeback run at Newton Abbott. Hopefully they go a good clip early on, and with Jump and Jump in the field there is every chance they will. Hija should be staying on at the finish and, at odds of 19/1 with Bet365, she looks worth supporting each way off bottom weight.