Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Best of the Rest

The King George wasn't a vintage year for me and Silvianaco Conti simply ground it out better than the others on the day with the going coming in his favour. The Gold Cup will probably be more up his street than this race however so there is little chance of Cue Card turning it around there and in any event it doesn't look, on this evidence, that he will be able stay that test and he will be better off in the Ryanair.

The Welsh National was much more of a contest and a spectacle for me with Tidal Bay trying to achieve the best weight carrying performance(OR163) in the race since Carvills Hill and boy did he nearly pull it off and all within a week of turning 13 years of age. In coming third he just failed to give 26lb to each of the first two home on the heavy going.
Of course there is no hard and fast rule as to when a horse should stop racing and retire, the general retirement age of 12 is something that has just come about over time and which all trainers seem to follow year in year out regardless of whether the horse is still capable or not it would seem. Nigel Twiston Davies is probably someone who doesn't stick fast to the 13 and you retire rule and he has had some success with the veterans in his yard.
Certainly for the Grand National, which will now be his next race, Tidal Bay will be cut some slack by the handicapper Phil Smith and as we could see yesterday he clearly wasn't stopping and would have been on top in another half furlong or so. Add to that the fact that he has never fallen, he unseated his rider at the 10th in the 2011 National off 159, and he must have a decent chance of finishing in the money at Aintree. We must also remember that he was only beaten 3 1/4 lengths by Bobs Worth in the 2012 Hennessy when giving him 6lb (ran from a mark of 166) and he must be on anyone's National shortlist.
The first and second in the Welsh National Mountainous and Hawkes Point should both get into the Grand National off their respective ratings, certainly that is where Nicholls other runner will be heading, however the winner is probably reliant on heavy ground (11131) and the chances of that are slim at Aintree. Their conqueror at Chepstow on 7th December De La Bech runs at Cheltenham on New Years Day from a 4lb higher mark and the Hobbs runner looks capable of going well there having only had 4 chase starts to date and 10 under rules in total so he is open to improvement. He needs to win there if the stable have any pretensions of running him in the bigger handicaps.

The Ryanair Hurdle on Sunday started off a bit cat and mouse but the pacemaker Captain Cee Bee soon took it up and set a good pace. Things started to hot up as the main three approached the turn into the home straight and once in the straight there was some jostling for position in which Jezki and Tony McCoy got squashed out between Our Connor on his left and Hurricane Fly on his right and consequently Hurricane Fly achieved a slight advantage on the run to the line in getting a clear run. It's difficult to say if that made any difference to the result but Jezki would have certainly been a lot closer granted a clearer run.

Value At Risk did it well in the last bumper of the meeting although I don't think he needed to be at his best to do so. I know I've mentioned a few of these already but these races are where all the good horses start from so you need to get a grip on them as soon as possible. Value At Risk had beaten Windsor Park at levels by 1 1/2 lengths last time out at Fairyhouse and he was unable to give 7lb to Noble Endeavour here on Thursday when beaten 3 lengths.
Any comments or thoughts of anyone else would be appreciated on any racing that occurred over the Christmas period not just in relation to the above or previous posts but to anything racing related- lets share the knowledge with each other and move forward together !

Good luck !

Pause for Thought

Some great racing over the last week at Kempton, Chepstow and Leopardstown.
At the latter I was not only impressed by The Tullow Tank but also by Seefood who finished 2nd in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier and Home Farm who finished 5th in the Paddy Power Chase as well as others listed below.

The Tullow Tank came into the Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle having won his last three races and in the last of those he beat Mullins Arctic Fire into third in the Royal Bond. That rival lined up again here and Mullins had also drafted in the unbeaten Moyle Park presumably based on home work and you would have to think that these were the best they had to offer. Mullins had said pre race that the more testing the going the better for Moyle Park, whilst The Tullow Tank's trainer Philip Fenton had said that he had previously had in the back of his mind that his charge preferred going right handed and although he had worked on that he was still raising it as an issue. In the race however he had nothing to fear as The Tullow Tank dismantled Moyle Park and the rest of this decent field with little fuss and he joins Istabraq, Hurricane Fly and Jezki as dual winners of this and the Royal Bond and on that evidence he looks a horse capable of winning at one of the big festivals. It was also another feather in the cap for his sire Oscar.

Seefood trained by Dessie Hughes was prominent throughout in the Pertemps Qualifier under his weight of 11-3(OR134) and he was the only 1 in the first 7 to carry more than 10-6 with twenty one and a half lengths covering those seven. The time seemed good based on the other races on the card. He looks almost certain to run at Cheltenham on this evidence and he must have a good chance in whatever race he runs in over hurdles if he doesn't go up too much in the ratings in the meantime, he may even switch back to chasing. He is probably best on good ground. His trainer won the Pertemps final in 2005 with Oulart (OR121) having won the Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle at the Christmas meeting here.

Home Farm hails from the same family as Jodami. He had finished 3rd in last seasons Irish National after being hampered three fences from home on just his fourth chase start (10 career starts to date). That  run had followed his win in a Beginners Chase when beating White Star Line at levels who had previously been placed at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival (2nd behind Hunt Ball) and then 3rd behind Golden Chieftan JLT Speciality Hcap Chase at the 2013 Festival. The White Star Line has gone on to win the Kerry National beating Carlingford Lough off 130 in receipt of 17lb and Carlingford Lough beat Morning Assembly in the Grade 1 Novice Chase on Sunday at Leopardstown.
Home Farm started this season over an inadequate 2m and he was being aimed at the Stewart Family Gold Cup at Cheltenham earlier in the month, for which he was backed into 6/1 from 12s before being taken out because of a dirty scope.
At Leopardstown in the Paddy Power over 3m he ran on well from mid division to finish a closing 5th beaten 6 1/4 lengths under his top weight of 11-7 (OR 142) burden, jumping well throughout. The chances are he will probably have another go in the Irish National but I wouldn't rule out an entry at Aintree in the big one and we may now see him in a hurdle race next to protect his handicap mark. Taking last years Paddy Power Chase as a guide the winner Colbert Station (OR132) won in a time 11 seconds slower than this years event and he was sent off at 12/1 at Aintree. This year the time of the race compared favourably with the Grade 1 Lexus Chase won by Bobs Worth the following day being exactly five seconds slower having run half a furlong further so it is handicap form to follow.
Home Farms trainer Arthur Moore had Organisedconfusion in the 2012 National running off a mark of 145 which equated to 10-8, he had previously been Moore's second winner of the Irish National in 2011, Feathered Gale had won in 96.
As we know Arthur Moore is a trainer who can ready a horse for a big race and only having had 10 runs to date Home Farm has plenty of potential to improve even further on his current rating during the remainder of the season ahead and we must keep on the right side of him in which ever Handicap we see him in next when the going is no worse than soft.

In the concluding Bumper on Friday Gordon Elliott's No More Heroes pulverised the opposition and 3m chasing is his ultimate aim in which he should excel on this performance.

On the Saturday the concluding bumper was won by Dermot Weld's Silver Concorde in a decent time for the going of 4min 0.50secs with a welter burden of 12-0 and he looks to have a bright future. He had been off the track for 516 days and Weld said that he did what was expected of him, stating that he had been just a big weak horse and he had matured a lot. He further stated that he would prefer better ground as he is a nice actioned horse and that he would now go for a winners bumper. He had previously finished 3rd behind Jezki and Ned Buntline on his debut at the beginning of 2012 and then he ran a bit erratically when going right handed at Galway in July 2012 where he finished 2nd.

Another to note over the first 3 days was Gordon Elliott's Double Irish who showed improved form to win a Maiden Hurdle on the Friday, the turn of foot he showed between the last two flights being really impressive.

Roll on Sunday and the Ryanair Hurdle.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Where to start ?

It's a packed Boxing Day on the racing front with 11 meetings in Britain and Ireland to choose from. Over here the best we have to offer is at Kempton with the King George, the Feltham and the Christmas Hurdle.Whilst in Ireland at Leopardstown we have a Grade 1 Novice Chase, Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle and a hot Maiden Hurdle, at Down Royal they stage an interesting Hunters Chase.

Festivities are in full swing here and I will be trying to pick out the best favs to try and collect some easy money to keep the wallet topped up for the indulgent days ahead.

You need to be up early tomorrow and have your wits about you as even before we hit 1.00pm there are several short priced fancies going to post with the likes of Milo Man, Vandros, Hail Tiberius, Bobble Boru, Horrendous Hulabaloo, Clondaw Flicka and Dubai Prince all in with leading chances in their respective contests.

In the 12.50 at Leopardstown Dermot Weld runs the useful flat performer Stuccodor in the Maiden Hurdle and he is up against Willie Mullins Daneking formerly trained by John Gosden and this could be an event to keep an eye on with Cheltenham in mind.

In the 1.30 at Down Royal an old fancy takes to the Hunters Chase stage in Joncol and if Paul Nolan has him up to his old form  he must run a big race, although he is up against last years winner Tammys Hill and also Salsify.

The 2.10 at Market Rasen is over 3m 5f and this marathon trip could be ideal for Merlin's Wish and if the going is testing then all the better. He has Charlie Longsdon's Orange Nassau to beat.

Champagne West gets a stone and 10lbs off top weight and fav Southfield Theatre in the 2.15 at Wincanton, although Harry Derham claims 5lb and the form of his latest win could be good enough to see him triumph.

In the 2.20 at Leopardstown Margaret Mullins (4-16) runs Cairdin in his first Handicap Chase and he should give a good account.

I had the The New One picked out as a festival winner from his first win last season and I'm sure he can go on again this time round. Obviously the 2.35 at Kempton is a difficult task fro him but My Tent or Yours wasn't overly convincing last time so I'm hopeful he can do the business.

Seconditis has troubled Rydalis so far this year and hopefully he can put a 1 on the board in the 2.50 at Wincanton in what could be a good day for the Williams yard. I.m hoping that his good jumping holds up and that that will make him difficult to beat.

Dan Skelton has his stable in top form and he has been a revelation, hopefully he hasn't stopped winning and in the 2.55 at Wetherby he runs Mister Grez  who must be placed at least.

Towcester takes some getting and you tend to see the races being won by the bigger stables who have no probs re fitness, however Course and Distance winners are also worth looking out for and in Bill The Lad in the 3.05 we have just that and he is able to run before he is reassessed by the Handicapper.

I have already covered the King George in my previous post and I've no reason to change my view on that.

Last Shot for Venetia Williams in the 3.25 is another fav that should win, but what price he will start at is anyone's guess.

Brian Ellison has a few runners tomorrow but one that could be capable of better over hurdles is Beaumont's Party who went up 17lb on the flat this season and the first time hood should hopefully light him up in a good way in the 3.30 at Wetherby.

In the 3.45 at Kempton there are several in with chances however I'm going to take an ew chance on Master Of The Game Hendersons entry who he was quite sweet on at the start of the season so hopefully he can put his best hoof forward in the first time hood.

On the flat at Wolverhampton the day starts with a tricky little sprint in which it may be best to side with Forest Edge to regain his winning sequence. He missed the break last time but couldn't get back into it, but that was not surprising as they took over half a second off the course record and some decent horses have run here in the past so it was decent time by any standard, even Tom Segal's. William Haggas looks to be after some Christmas funds and sends out Resolute and Epic Battle and both must have leading chances in their respective contests.

Well there you have virtually all of my thoughts for the Boxing Day bonanza. Not even I will be backing them all and I wouldn't expect anyone else to unless they were mad, but I've highlighted a Yankee from the above which can be done to small stakes.

Good luck !

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas is a time for........

Yes you've guessed it, catching up on all things racing and watching the King George and Welsh National !

I see there are some new followers to the blog - be warned I don't do many posts over the winter as this is a predominantly sprint based blog.. but I'm usually fast out of the blocks come March.

Looking at the King George field it is not an inspiring bunch and probably one of the worst line ups we've had for a while. I would imagine whatever wins will not be remembered in the racing history books.
Long Run, like a lot of the French bred, seems to be heading downhill now he's turned 9 on the showing of his two runs this season and although this is a track were he tends to run well he will need to step up considerably on what he has shown so far to figure.
Cue Card is a favourite of many but he doesn't rock my boat I'm afraid and top 3m chaser he isn't in my view...but I'm quite prepared to eat my hat if he runs well but the best I can see him doing is third.
Silviniaco Conti needs further so will struggle on this tight track and they wont he hanging around. In a normal year he would have prospects of being PU but not sure this field will result in that.
Dynaste was beaten fair and square by Cue Card at Haydock but he will race sharper this time so could turn the tables and looks set for place prospects.
Menorah will probably struggle on his first run back and Champion Court looks slightly out of his depth.
Riverside Theatre runs well here but he is another you would have to think is shooting a bit high in this.
Mount Benbullen may need the going to be a little softer than he gets here to show his best and were not really sure what his best is in any event.
That leaves the reliably consistent Al Ferof who looks capable of improving again on what he has  shown so far and he can win at the expense of Dynaste and Cue Card. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Aintree thoughts

Went to my local track at Aintree on Saturday to get some clues for the National. It was a pleasant day weather wise, although no winners for me, and managed to meet up with a few friends along the way too.
Bit disappointed with the facilities in that the some of the tote screens were so grubby with dirt it was difficult to see the odds and also the metal stairways coming down from the roof were mossy and slippy and these issues were not isolated. I can only say bad show Aintree and it reminded me of the bad old days of the seventies. Lets hope they put things right for the Grand National as we all know it isn't cheap going to these big meets and we should be getting the best they can offer and not the most economical.
The main event the Becher Chase was dominated by front runners, as so often has been the case here, and it would appear even more so now with the fences being made easier. This allows the front runners to really attack the fences without any fear of falling if they clout one and Hello Bud was able to negotiate a mistake early on at the second that normally would have taken him out of the race.
The first four home had shown a tendency to run prominent previously and comments in the Timeform racecard read as follows :
1st - Chance Du Roy - "races prominently"
2nd - Baby Run - "free going front runner"
3rd - Mr Moonshine - "front runner/races prominently"
4th - Ballybough Gorta - "front runner/races prominently"
As it was Baby Run lead them most of the way with Mr Moonshine in or about 3rd, Chance Du Roy was a bit tapped for toe early but worked his way into about 5th heading out from the stands, there were several out the back who were being rousted along to remain in contention. Ballybough Gorta was about 10th for most of the race and gradually got to 4th coming up the straight, needing to be pushed along constantly to do so.
The winner was well handicapped on his best form and really only had to recapture that to be in with a solid chance which he was able to do. He had previously run in the Grand Sefton in 2012 from 15lb higher and connections were eyeing that up again back in October so it was surprising to see him turn up in this and there is now every chance that he will run in the big one come the spring.
Mr Moonshine for National winning trainer Sue Smith jumped really well and I was quite impressed by him and I think he is an ideal type for the Topham. He ran in the National last year but staying isn't his forte and he was tailed off and pulled up. This year he started by running an encouraging race in the Old Roan Chase off a mark of 140(5lb out of handicap), 133 today, and finished 4th to Conquisto. A repeat of that form in the Topham coupled with his good jumping and prominent running would see him go very close.
Peter Bowen's Ballybough Gorta is only 6 and although he has improved considerably over the last year his trainer believes there is more to come and there's every chance we shall see more of him at this track at which his trainer has had a healthy amount of winners in the past.
It will be interesting to see how the handicapper reacts to the race and to those who didn't run well for one reason or another and what effect it will have on the betting for the big one.