Thursday, 26 April 2012

Up a bit, down a bit - 26th April

With the flat season only just getting going and there being plenty of wet weather about its going to take a few weeks to get to grips with the form, however we shall carry on with our weekly look at the sprint races.

Fisrt up is the Class 5 Betdaq Mobile Apps Handicap over 6f at Kempton on the AW which was won in taking fashion by Henry Candy's Larwood by 4 1/2 lengths from Auntie Mabel. The winner was rated 67 for this and a result of his win has been raised 12lb to 79, he clocked a topspeed figure of 83 in winning easily and his trainer commented afterwards "He´s had two wind operations and a gelding operation since his last run. Even when he won at Bath last year his head was a bit high and he was just finding it all a bit tough. He still races in a cross-noseband but he hasn´t stopped smiling since he got here tonight. His ears were going back and forwards and he´s a much happier horse now. I thought he looked incredibly well handicapped".

At Newmarket on 18th April the Tattersalls Millions 3yo Sprint over 6f went to Jeremy Noseda's Valbchek who was having only his second start. He beat the running on Swiss Spirit by half a length with a further 1 3/4 lengths back to Tidentime back in third. Pre race Noseda had said that Valbchek was working nicely and that he felt he would perform well and his only concern being whether he was mentally ready for this type of contest. Well he definitely was and afterwards his trainer commented "I took him to Lingfield to get a run into him over six furlongs, specifically for this. For an inexperienced horse, this was a good performance to go and win a race like that. He has plenty of potential but is going to have to step up in class now - he could run in the Carnarvon at Newbury, a Listed race the day before the Lockinge. Sprinters can take longer than others to find maturity and he will get there in time. I had half a mind he could be a Jersey (Royal Ascot) horse and Ryan said he was a 6f horse who might get a bit further but we´ll stick at six for now". The second Swiss Spirit finished strongly out wide and pre race Elsworth had said that although they had aimed him at the race their horses were a little behind. Ken Pitterson in the Weekender reported that he looked far from feady in his coat and his overall performance suggested that the run would have put him spot on. The winner has yet to receive a rating but his topspeed figure here was 95 and Jeremy Noseda commented "It was a good performance from Valbchek and we were very pleased with him. Hopefully, he will keep improving and I believe he will. We will give him another 10 days, then get him back into fast work and decide where we take our next step.”. The second remains on 98, whilst the third goes up 1lb to 93.

The afternoon ended with the 6f Class 2 Handicap which was won by Mark Johnston's improving Es Que Love by 2 lengths from Sans Loi with a neck back Heeraat in third. The winner was following up his win at Pontefract and is now 3-3 on stiff tracks having also won at Beverley and he has been given a couple of Group 1 entries. His trainer commented afterwards "He was difficult being a free-runner last year, often falling in a hole late in his races. We went to Pontefract last week over six furlongs thinking about going a mile after but Silvestre [De Sousa] said drop him back to five. There weren´t any races for him so we came here under a penalty wondering if he would see it out. It´s going to be difficult now for him as he has won off 92 effectively". The second did well having been held up in the rear and then making his move towards the stand side and he looks capable of winning a decent prize.

The Listed Abernant Stakes at Newmarket over 6f saw Mayson (100) win by a convincing 3 1/2 lengths after running on strongly up the hill. In doing so he beat the 8yo Jimmy Styles (105) with Internationaldebut (101) a further 1 1/2 lengths back in third. The pace of the race was slow and did not play to the strengths of Genki and Sirius Prospect who finished behind, whilst the winner was able to settle and quicken at the business end being just off the leaders throughout. Richard Fahey commented in his column "It's the first time he has relaxed in his races, I've been raving about him for a while now and he hasn't had many races still. When things go right he's pretty sweet and he'll go to the Duke Of York now. We wanted to take a bit of cover but Newmarket was a bad place to try it as there wasn't much early pace. Paul (Hanagan) said he fell out of the stalls and quickly relaxed, it was like a little hack canter for him through the early stages. Hopefully he'll improve again for this".
Roger Charlton commented the following day on Genki " Nothing really went right for Genki yesterday at Newmarket with the heavy showers of rain, the ground had become rather loose on top. He does not seem to mind soft ground or fast ground but if he starts to slip and lose his footing, he then loses his confidence, this has happened in the past particularly at Ascot after heavy rain. The slow early pace made the race a bit of a muddle and it would appear that they went faster over the first two fences in the Grand National than they did over the first two furlongs in the Abernant. Hopefully the race won't have done him any harm and he could run either at York or Newcastle".
Also behind was High Standing for Jeremy Gask and he commented "High Standing ran a good race running out of room as he made his run up the hill. It was very pleasing to see him show some spark late and we'll sit down and come up with a plan now that he looks as if he retains some interest".

BHB Handicappers Blog
GO ON MAYSON!Even though understandably the Classic trials took centre stage at last week’s Craven meeting there was some decent sprint action on show, with the 6f listed Connaught Access Flooring Abernant Stakes being the pick of it, writes Stewart Copeland.
The race itself was a somewhat unsatisfactory affair, with a modest early gallop probably compromising the chance of some of those held up, which included the favourite Genki, making his seasonal reappearance and trying to follow up his success of last year. He failed to land a blow from off the pace, but given the race wasn’t run to suit, too much shouldn’t be read into it in my view and he remains on his rating of 114.
The spoils however went to the four-year-old colt, Mayson, trained by Richard Fahey. Always travelling well up with the pace, Mayson quickened clear in taking style over a furlong out and came home a comfortable three and a half lengths clear from the pacesetting Jimmy Styles.
This represented a marked turnaround in form from their placings in the Cammidge Trophy at Doncaster last time out, and in my view a career-best performance from Mayson. I’ve credited him with an improved rating of 110, which is roughly on par with the average performance we’d expect for an Abernant winner over the past decade.
Mayson’s next port of call is apparently the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes at the Knavesmire next month, and on this effort he’s well worth his place in that field. That race often produces a winning performance in the mid-teens though, and probably explains why recent winners of the Abernant don’t have a great record in it.
In fact we have to go back to 1995 to find the last horse to complete the Abernant/Duke of York double in the same year. That was no less a horse than the top-class Lake Coniston, who subsequently romped home to an impressive success in the July Cup at Newmarket.

At Ripon on 19th April Fast Shot stayed on strongly to win the 6f Class 4 Handicap by 1 3/4 lengths from Trade Secret with a further 1 1/4 lengths back to Toby Tyler. The winner was rated 81 and recorded a topspeed figure of 90 and has been raised 6lb by the handicapper to a mark of 87. Granted the same conditions he should be capable of following up.

Beyond Desire continued Roger Varians good run by winning the 5f Listed Fiilies Stakes beating the fast finishing Caledonia Lady by a head. Pre race hertrainer had said "She's in good form and has done really well over the winter and looks stronger for another year. The ground is a bit of a concern" after winning he said she will be suited by a sharper course than this as she has got quicker as she has got older. She also holds a Group 1 entry. Pre race the second was said to have wintered well and that the ground would be no concern and although she would come on for the run she had a fighting chance.

At Newbury on 20th April Mirza won the 7 runner 5f Class 2 Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths from Blue Jack with the same distance back to Lui Rei. Commenting afterwards Rae Guest said " He loves the ground and that´s why we came here. We wanted to run over six [furlongs] but there are no races for him. He´s in at Pontefract on Monday so we´ll see how he is before deciding. He´s a decent horse but has to have this ground". At Pontefract on Monday he finished 2nd of 17 to Seal Rock in a Class 2 Handicap on soft over 6f.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Friday Racing

Yesterday Mayson was a well backed winner for the 2012 Master Lisr - see opposite.

Bath stages an intriguing Listed Sprint over 5f at 6.35 and Night Carnation, Caledonia Lady and Astrophysical Jet look to be the ones to be concentrating on. The latter looked set for a good season last year but lost her way and the stable will be hoping to see a spark of her old form to give them hope for the yaer ahead, another lack lustre effort could see her dropping back into handicap company. Button Moon might be taking a step too far in this and Andrew Balding's Night Carnation might be the one to capitalise.

Over at Newbury the 1.35 looks as though it could be a fast run affair with Captain Dunne and Confessional lining up and the former will be a lot straighter with a run behind him and will take some catching. One who may catch him is Medicean Man who likes to come from behind so will be in his element in this. Desert Law will be trying to do better than last time, whilst Blue Jack tries to get his career back on track.

Up a bit, down a bit

This weeks look back starts with Divine Call who won the Class 5 handicap at Warwick over 5f on 9th April beating My Kingdom by a length. In doing so the winner, who was rated 72, recorded a topspeed figure of 82 and an RPR of 85. The son of Pivotal was having his first start for Milton Bradley and was probably suited by the Good to Soft and he was well on top towards the finish and looks capable or going well again granted similar conditions. He has been raised 6lbs to 78 with the seond raised 3lb also to 78.
In the next race a Condtions Stakes run over 6f New Planet got the better of Bathwick Bear by 2 1/2 lengths with a neck back to the useful Mac's Power who probably wasnt suited by the small field. The winner has since finished in the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket.

Another to show improved form was Es Que Love at Pontefract on 10th April over 6f when beating Yeeoow by a length with 1 1/4 lengths back to the 80 rated Springinmystep. The winner made all in this Class 3 contest and its not often you see Mark Johnston send out a sprinter but he had been influenced by Sylvester De Sousa's comments that he would be suited by a sprint trip. He reappeared at Newmarket on Wednesday with  6lb penalty and won a Class 2 Handicap decisively by 2 lengths, once again making all. He looks to be on the up.with a further 6/7lb rise looking likely. The second at Pontefract Yeeoow, on this showing, looks capable of going one better shortly having himself clocked a topspeed figure of 81. Behind were Indego Blues in 9th who could be capable of better for Dandy Nicholls at some stage and he has been dropped 2lb to 76 as has the brother to Hoof It, the aptly named Bop It, who is now on a mark of 80.

Boucher Garcon has been on little handicap spree for his trainer Declan Carroll having run 3 times in the space of 6 days winning twice and coming second on the third attempt and in doing so has been raised a total of 18lb by the handicapper. Perhaps we should play close attention to the trainers entries if entering one up for a similar run in future.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Thursday Racing

Thursday sees Sirius Prospect return to the track at Newmarket in the Abernant Stakes over 6f and connections will he hoping that he performs better than he did first time out. He is said to be have been showing all the right signals at home and he is the horse with the most potential for improvement in the race and the course and distance should bring out the best in him. Last years winner Genki usually comes to hand early and Mayson and New Planet will also be on the scene having both already run well this season. However I feel that we must stick with Sirius Prospect to come good.
Also tomorrow we have Swilly Ferry running in the Class 4 handicap at 3.20 at Ripon on his second start for Dandy Nicholls. He is open to improvement with the sprint maestro and its a fact that Timeform have not been slow to notice as he has been included in their 50 to follow for the season. The race itself doesnt look as though it will take much winning.
Later in the afternoon Lucky Numbers has his first start for David O’Meara having been switched from Paul Green, 6f is his best distance and with the going reported as Good to Soft it should play to his strengths. He has in the past gone well first time out and with De Sousa riding he shouldnt lack for assistance from the saddle.
At Wolverhampton in the 6.05 Andrew Balding’s Black Cadillac has his 9th start having won by 3 lengths at Kempton last time out. He looks the improver in the field and with the stable in good from he should be able to overcome his 9lb rise inthe weights.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Neptune Collonges wins exciting finish

Having lived close to Aintree all my life, I have become as staunch a supporter of the Grand National as you could get and therefore I feel obliged to make some comment on events yesterday.

For me it was truly a fantastic finish to the race with Neptune Collonges just inching out Sunnyhillboy by a nose in the very last strides, even though all my selections were long out of the race it didnt stop me enjoying what was happening. Neptune now heads into a very honourable retirement having won the greatest race in the world.
Although the race was the closest finish and most thrilling we had seen for sometime the reports of the race were mainly focussing on the two fatalities during it. One of the fallers the Gold Cup winner Synchronised had got loose prior to the start having jinked under the starting tape when heading down to view the first fence. He was of course not affected by this and returned to view the fence with McCoy back on board having been looked over by the course vet which is normal practice in any race.

Once again however the jumps have come under close scrutiny because of the deaths of Synchronised and According To Pete and Becher's Brook just happened to be the fence were both horses fell.
Synchronised, who many pundits pre race had expressed the view that his jumping ability may have left him wanting, skewed the fence when jumping Bechers just as he had done at Cheltenham in the Gold Cup when winning that race, this of course led him to fall. He carried on though without his jockey, running loose, before suffering his fatal injury at or near the 11th fence.
According to Pete was brought down on the second circuit at Becher's having jumped it well, his fall was caused by the inexperienced On His Own who had fallen in front of him and he could do nothing but collide with that one on landing. On His Own had only been in six other races over fences prior to this and one wonders whether there should be a more stringent qualifying criteria to get into the race as regards experience. He was also an 8yo and I note that from the  eight 7 and 8yo in the race yesterday six either fell or unseated. The last winner of the race aged 8 was Bindaree in 2002.

Both of the fatalities could quite easily have happened at any jumps track in the country, not just at Aintree. In my opinion Becher's Brook didnt really have a direct part to play in either of the fatalities.
What was alarming for me though was the speed at which the horses travelled during the early part of the race and this of course is directly down to the jockeys and has nothing to do with the course. There appeared to be a large amount of youthfull exuberance pre the tapes going up for the start which caused the initial false start. The jockeys then repeatedly ignored the starter before the race eventually commenced in earnest at a fast pace. The time of the race bears out that they were going too fast as although it was on Good, Good to Soft in places, they managed to beat the standard time by nearly 5 seconds. I suppose in the back of the jockeys minds they know alterations have been made to the jumps and therefore there is less chance of their horse falling so they they think they can go quicker and that it was thay have done here. It only takes one to do it and all the others follow.

Unfortunately you will always get people forming their own opinions of what has happened in the race, just like I am here, but some opinions are often misinformed and are based on insufficient information being provided. I happened to bump into a neighbour of mine after the race who hadnt seen it but her first comment was about Synchronised having got loose prior to the start and a vet having to be called because he was already injured, I naturally told her what had really happened. Of course it's easy to get  accounts wrong, page 3 of the Racing Post today has Jon Lees reporting that "According to Pete one of the two horses to be put down, which caused the 20th Fence to be bypassed", that of course isnt correct as the 20th fence was bypassed because of an injured jockey on the track not a horse. On that subject I'm not sure why they have to put up a screen for an injured jockey, surely that just adds further flames to the fire as nobody knows whether it's a horse or jockey that is injured and most people would naturally assume it was a horse as did Jon Lees.

Although I am a staunch supporter of the race I realise that the race has to evolve as we go along from year to year, however we cant make it like an ordinary race as the hundreds of millions of people who watch it throughout the world wouldnt watch it anymore if it was similar to 3 mile chase at Bangor and also the local economy around Liverpool would also suffer.

For me the changes that I would be looking to do would be reduce the amount of runners to 30, the Topham and Foxhunters are no less of a spectacle for having that amount of runners and neither would the Grand National be. Tighten up the qualifying criteria to get into the race, the race needs horses that are sufficiently experienced to compete whether by amount or types of races they have run in. Limited jumping experience is just not good enough in what is a primarily a jumping test. The jockeys too need to be brought into line as it is they who control the speed of the race and also any congestion around the jumps, such as happened at the Canal Turn on the first circuit, were several horses were affected. Perhaps stronger warnings or penalties need to be given to them.

I hope whatever happens the race continues for many years to come.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Grand National 2012

What a great days racing at Aintree today, its sad though that it'S the last time that BBC cover the race as they give it its full glory, I'm not convinced that C4 will be able to do this if they stick to their usual format.

The race itself is as tricky a puzzle as ever even for the hardened punter and if your using a pin you have just as much chance as anyone else of picking the winner as the outcome of this race is often down to luck and being in the right place at the right time. Class does have a say but it's luck that has the final say.

There are a few on my mind that I will be backing and they are Synchronised, Weird Al, Planet of Sound, Black Apalachi and Killyglen.

Although his jumping appears suspect you couldnt be anything but be impressed by the way he stayed on up the hill at Cheltenham and these long distance chases bring out the very best in him.
Weird Al
He was one of the leading fancies for the Gold Cup and is now available at 66/1 for this, which seems far too high for me for a horse of his ability and of course there is the McCain factor. He may not win but I could see him being placed.
Planet of Sound
Has been running well and has had a preparation geared towards the race.
Black Apalachi
Is an Aintree specialist and although 13 could once again go well here.
Was going very well in last year's race only to fall and looks like he is coming back to the boil at the right time.

Once again the various newspapers have Bechers Brook still having a brook, but as we know the brook although there is covered up during the race so it has no effect.
Good Luck with the race.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Up a bit, down a bit

Only one race to cover this week and that is :-
New William Hill iPhone App Cammidge Trophy (Listed Race)

The pace was on the stands´ side and the first three came out of the four highest-numbered stalls. The time was just 0.31 outside the standard.
THE CHEKA (108) was soon chasing the pace after a slightly slow start, but picked up inside the last to win a shade readily. This was his first run over a sprint trip on what was his 20th racecourse appearance.
Last year´s winner Jimmy Styles (100) travelled well and took over entering the final furlong, but could not hold off the winner and was beaten 3/4 length.
Mayson (100) showed bright pace alongside the rail but had to give best at the furlong pole and finished 2 lengths behind the second.
Royal Rock (112), sixth in this last year, ran on late, he did best of those who came from off the pace and also of those drawn low.
Sirius Prospect (110) won his last four races of 2011, culminating in a victory over Mayson in this grade over C&D in November, and improved his official rating by 30lb during the year. After proving a little reluctant to enter the stalls, he failed to spark and was never seen with a chance, but he was running on late when it was all over. He remains capable of improvement.
Waffle (102) did not get a clear run when trying to pick up heading towards the furlong pole but is not the type to make too many excuses for and he generally performs better in bigger fields of runners. Entered at Musselburgh at the weekend.
Bannock (108) was a smart 2yo(placed twice in Group 2 company and won a Listed race at York in October) and was fit from a run at Lingfield, but he ran poorly here from what looked a favourable berth against the stands´ rail. Entered at Cork at the weekend.

QUOTES: Eve Johnson Houghton, trainer of The Cheka: "What a star he is to us; that´s three times he´s won first time out. I was always tempted to drop him back to 6f, but some of the jockeys who rode him felt he might not have the pace and to be fair, there was never quite the right opportunity last season. He will now go for either the Duke of York Stakes or the Victoria Cup."

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Week Ahead

Folkestone stages two Class 4 4yo plus sprints on Thursday over 5 and 6 furlongs which are contested by 8 runners apiece. However neither race looks particularly interesting on paper and I will wait for the weekend before posting any selections.

With no racing on Good Friday Saturday is the next port of call at both Musselburgh and Cork.
Musselburgh stages a Conditions Stakes run over 5f and some of those entered are Hamish McGonagall, Shoshoni Wind, Borderlescott, Captain Dunne and Excel Bolt.
Hamish McGonagall's best run last season was when he was second to Margot Did when beaten 3/4 length in the Group 1 Nunthorpe at York in August. He then finished the season by running third to Prohibit in a Group 3 at Longchamp and on that occasion he was beaten 1 3/4 lengths, its those sort of runs that bring him into this as the top rated on 114. He goes well here having won 4 times from six starts.
Captain Dunne will also be returning from a break but like last season he may need his first run back.
The current going at Musselburgh is Good to Soft.
Over at Cork we have the Listed Cork Stakes and Dermot Weld's Croisultan gets the chance to follow up his win at the Curragh on 25th March. Entries who may be making the trip across the Irish sea are Jeremy Gask's High Standing and Medicean Man and Mark Johnston's Bannock.