Month: February 2017

Lucky 15 February 28th

Tuesday 6.00pm Today has been Gordon Elliott’s media day and on the back of Willie Mullins yesterday there is a lot to take in. So this is a massive blog containing the following:-

Wednesday’s Lucky 15

Gordon Elliott’s Cheltenham team courtesy of Kevin Blake and

Gordon Elliott did a Q and A with Betfair on twitter last night. Edited highlights.

Willie Mullins Cheltenham team. Extended version courtesy of Ben Linfoot and

Six most vulnerable Festival favourites? Thought provoking article online at

Huge difference in approach to the media between Elliott and Mullins with Elliott seemingly much more direct. It will be of interest post Cheltenham to see how what they have said over the past 48 hours pans out over the four days of the Festival!


Wednesday Lucky 15

Wincanton 2.40                     SLEEP EASY                                         15/2 WH 6/1 general   

Musselburgh 3.00                  DOWN TIME                                       10/1 PP 7/1 general

Ffos Las 3.50                           PADDYS MOTORBIKE                         5/2 general 13/8 PP??

Musselburgh 4.00                  SUPERIOR COMMAND                      4/1 general

 and here’s why

 Wincanton 2.40                     SLEEP EASY     This horse has a line of outstanding form, comes from the yard of Neil Mulholland still buzzing from winning the Betbright Chase at the weekend, has entries at the Festival and a 7lb claimer who normally rides in Scotland plus he’s owned by Brighton chairman and all round shrewdie Tony Bloom (Penhill etc.). The form is he failed by only just less than five lengths to give 7lbs to Movewiththetimes, Betfair Hurdle second and single figures for the Supreme at Cheltenham! The yards had six winners in the last fortnight including Saturday’s biggie and Neil Mulholland has entties in the Coral and the Martin Pipe handicap hurdles at Cheltenham of which the latter is interesting. Why? Well the Martin Pipe is for conditionals and here Sleep Easy is ridden by a claimer who normally rides in Scotland for his dad, Tim Reed, or Lucinda Russell. Mulholland could have used the yards excellent claimer, Sean Corby! Sleep Easy has to give weight to some in form horses but could easily be up to the task!

Musselburgh 3.00                  DOWN TIME My eyes are immediately drawn to Brian Hughes riding at just 10st for Brian Ellison! Down Time has bits and pieces of form including a reasonable third over this trip at Hexham on Good ground but he will get almost two stone from those with any form at all.

Ffos Las 3.50                           PADDYS MOTORBIKE No racing in Ireland on Wednesday and surprise, surprise Davy Russell is at Ffos Las for five rides! He is retained by the owner of Ffos Las, Dai Walters, and Paddy’s Motorbike looks the best bet of the five as I just don’t trust West Wizard! This is the selections first go in a NH handicap off just OR120 in a C4 2m 4f 0-120 event, I like that and as he was a OR90+ animal on the flat he could simply be too classy for these! The heavy ground could be an issue but the trip is fine and the man on top is enough to make Paddy’s Motorbike the best bet of the day!

Musselburgh 4.00                  SUPERIOR COMMAND This 8yo is a course and distance winner in this grade, C4, and his two main rivals are 4yo’s who have both gone up 20lbs for winning and just have to be taken on. Tom O’Brien makes the long trek north to partner Silver Streak for Welsh in form trainer Tim Vaughan and all presumably in search of Good ground but 20lbs is a hell of a hike to overcome! I’ll stick with Lucinda Russell and a favourite jockey, Derek Fox, to keep the prize in Scotland.


Tuesday Selection

I am sorry but I’ve been through tomorrows Jumps cards at Leicester and Catterick a couple of times and with winter ground, small fields, hunter chases I just can’t find four selections to put in a Lucky 15 and so it will just have to be the one selection and it’s each way at that!!

Leicester 2.10                         THREEOFAKIND                      Fell 9/1

Tried throughout, raced prominently but was beaten when taking a tired fall three out.



Tuesday 28th Feb. Kevin Blake is on the ball again and this is off the attheraces website! Gordon Elliott could clean up in the handicaps! GG=Gigginstown

Apple’s Jade (FR) GG The plan is to run in the Mares’ Hurdle. She was beaten by the better horse on the day at Punchestown last week and I wouldn’t like to make any excuses. I’d be hoping that better ground and getting a lead off something would suit her better at Cheltenham, as she can be a bit idle in her races. To look at her, you’d say she takes her racing well and she’s been beaten on her two runs back from a break for me, so hopefully she can come on a bit from it. She’s a great mare to have around the place.

Automated The Coral Cup is the plan and I think he will run well in it. The race should suit him, as he loves being ridden quietly and passing horses late on. Bryan gave him a peach of a ride when he won at Navan and that will be the plan again at Cheltenham.

Brelade He’s entered in the Martin Pipe, Coral Cup and the Neptune and the mark he gets will dictate where he runs. I think the step up in trip will really suit him wherever he runs. He’ll go on any ground.

Cause Of Causes (USA)The plan is to run him in the cross-country race at Cheltenham. Based on his form over normal fences, he’d have a chance and all we can hope for is a bit of luck on the day. He raced over that cross-country course last time and we brought him back over during the Cheltenham sales since then and schooled him around there two days in a row, just to get his eye in, so hopefully that will help him. I’m 90% sure Jamie Codd will ride him and he knows him well. The Grand National is the longer-term plan for him.

Death Duty (IRE) GG He will definitely run in the Albert Bartlett. The Neptune isn’t being considered for him. I just think the Albert Bartlett is made for him, he should really be in his comfort zone over three miles. I wouldn’t have any worries about better ground for him. Even if it turned up very soft, we’d just drop him in there and take our time with him. He’s the sort of horse that nothing phases him, he’s very laid back and doesn’t do anything flashy, but they are often the best ones. His form has been solid all the way and it’s hard to knock him. He’s a big three-mile chaser in the making and I’m looking forward to next season with him already.

Diamond King (IRE) He’s in great form and I think you’ll see a different horse if he gets better ground. The Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase is the race he’s being aimed at. He was very good at Galway earlier this season, but just hasn’t had suitable ground since then.

Dinaria Des Obeaux (FR) GG I was happy with her the other day and she just looks like she needs a longer trip. She’s entered in the Fred Winter and we’ll see what mark she gets. I would nearly rather run her in that than in the Triumph as it won’t be as strong. I think Cheltenham will suit her well.

Don Poli (IRE) GG He’s in great form and his last few runs have been good, though he has had plenty of chances at the top level now and seems a bit short of the very best. I hope he’ll be able to race a lot more prominently in Gold Cup this year than he did last year! I don’t know what happened at Down Royal, it was embarrassing. The way he ran that day he wouldn’t have won a point-to-point! Though in fairness to him he ran very sweet last time and is really enjoying himself these days.

Empire Of Dirt (IRE) GG Michael wants to run him in the Ryanair and that’s the plan. The only way that might change is if something went wrong with Outlander or Don Poli, in which case he could possibly run in the Gold Cup. He has improved this season and he would look to have a very good chance in the Ryanair Chase.

Jury Duty (IRE)  We have had the Pertemps Final in mind for him for a while, but when he won at Navan he picked up a nasty cut and that put us on the back foot with him. We were just running out of time to get him qualified, so that’s why he ran at Chepstow the other day. Thankfully he got qualified and I’m looking forward to running him in it. I entered him in the Coral Cup just in case he didn’t get qualified for the Pertemps, but he’ll definitely run in the Pertemps all being well. He’s owned by a great bunch of lads, friends and neighbours of mine, so it’ll be fantastic if he runs well for them.”

Mega Fortune (FR) He’s won a Grade 1 and looks to be the pick of the Irish juveniles. I think the cheekpieces and riding him more positively are more important to him than the ground. I don’t think he’ll be unsuited by better ground than he got at Leopardstown last time. He’s a lazy horse at home, you’d think he was a three-mile chaser rather like a Flat-bred. Cheekpieces helped him on the Flat when he was with Andy Oliver and putting them back on him last time seemed to really help him.

Mick Jazz (FR) The plan is to run him in the County Hurdle. A fast pace there would suit him well as he travels strongly in his races.

Missy Tata (FR) When she won at Limerick she picked up a little suspensory problem. It isn’t career threatening, but she won’t run again this season. Chasing will be the plan next season.

Noble Endeavor (IRE) The Ultima Handicap Chase is the plan for him. He was running a big race in the four miler last year, he was only just behind Native River and Jamie said he was only getting going. He ran very well when a close second in the Martin Pipe too, so he clearly likes the place. It was always the plan to wait for this after winning the Paddy Power and the Irish National will be the plan after Cheltenham.”

Outlander (IRE) GG We’re looking forward to running him in the Gold Cup. We decided to skip the Irish Gold Cup with him as he had already had three runs and we thought freshening him up was the right thing to do with a view to the spring. He is a bit more unexposed than Don Poli and while it will be his first time over the Gold Cup trip, we’ll give him every chance to get it as we’ll drop him in and take our time with him. I don’t think he’s another Don Cossack, there’s no point in saying I think he is, but he has surprised us already and I’d be delighted to be surprised again by him.

Runfordave (IRE) He is entered in the Martin Pipe, Coral Cup, Neptune and Albert Bartlett. It depends on what happens with The Storyteller, as they are owned by the same man, but I would like to run one of them in the Martin Pipe for sure. I think he’ll stay mid-range trips well and might get three miles when he goes over a fence.

Shattered Love (IRE) GG I might run her in the Neptune and take advantage of the mares’ allowance. Her form isn’t far off the best of those novice hurdle mares in Ireland, but I just think the trip in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle would be a bit short for her, that’s why we are looking at the Neptune for her.

Squouateur (FR) He’s entered in the novices’ handicap chase and the Kim Muir, but we’ll wait and see what the handicapper does on Thursday before making any decisions.

Sutton Place He won’t travel to Cheltenham, but Aintree or Fairyhouse will be on his agenda. He could be a horse for the Aintree Hurdle.

The Storyteller (IRE) It all depends on what mark he gets, but we’d like to run him in the Martin Pipe. We entered him at Cheltenham a few weeks ago and he had a mark of 137 or 138, so hopefully that hasn’t changed too much since then.

Tiger Roll (IRE) GG Tiger Roll is capable of surprising us all! He’ll run in the National Hunt Chase and you’ll know after two fences whether he fancies it or not. There won’t be many rated higher than him in it and he has winning form at the track which is always a positive. He’ll get the trip and the better ground will suit him. Hopefully he fancies it on the day, as he’ll stay all day. Lisa O’Neill could well get the ride on him. She’s working very hard here and has been lucky for Gigginstown.

Tombstone (IRE) GG He’ll work at the weekend and if everything goes alright, he’ll be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle. He’s an unexposed horse and while I’m not saying I know he’s good enough to win a Champion Hurdle, when you see Petit Mouchoir is third or fourth favourite for it and Tombstone finished in front of him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year, that would give you hope. He was actually supposed to go chasing this season, but he needed a screw put in his joint last year and that just held him up getting back to the track this season. He’ll definitely go chasing next season.


Gordon Elliott Q&A with BetFair on twitter Feb 27th

Sam lee @Samlee1991 Would you say Death Duty is 100% going Albert Bartlett? Thanks.

#AskGordon Yes 110%

Steeple Jack @JAlexanderKing Where is Blood Crazed Tiger likely to be aimed?

#AskGordon Neptune

JordanS @Shukes014 wheres does Barra go?

#AskGordon Mares Novice Hurdle

Steeple Jack @JAlexanderKing Rightdownthemiddle has plenty of potential targets. Which is the most likely at this stage

#AskGordon Irish Grand National

Grant Griffiths @grant_griffiths is Tycoon Prince going to Cheltenham and if so what race?

#AskGordon Not travelling

Millhouse @mtharrison How good is Tombstone?

#AskGordon Good horse who has earned his inclusion in the Champion H but chasing is going to be his game

Kev kelly @Kevkelly4 is there any chance apples jade will run in the champion hurdle?

#AskGordon Mares Hurdle

Cheltenham Punter @Harchibald04 Is Brelade likely to go to the Neptune or Handicaps at the festival?

#AskGordon We will see what Phil Smith does and make our decision this week

David Weldon @theweldon88 Shattered Love going to mares novice? Chance?

#AskGordon No, Neptune with a live chance

Tony Keenan @RacingTrends @BetfairRacing If/when The Storyteller doesn’t get into the Martin Pipe, where will he run?

#askgordon If he doesn’t get into the Martin P it will probably be the Coral Cup

Joe @Howley_Joe Who are you planning on running in the Fred Winter and Martin Pipe atm?

#AskGordon Pipe – Storyteller Fred W – D Des O

Rob @coxy182 Does Cause of Causes go straight to the Grand National?

#AskGordon X-country race at Cheltenham all being well

PG76 @pgchop76 What’s the plan for Empire of Dirt?

#askGordon  Ryanair

Aaron Boland @Salsify96 dark horse for the festival Gordon.

#AskGordon Automated in the Coral Cup

Greg Thomas anything for the Champion bumper?

#AskGordon No runner

STEVEN ORME @sormey is Diamond King on target for the Brown Advisory?

#AskGordon Yeah & I’m very happy with his prep. Looking forward to a bit of good ground with him.

TK @tkits14 Hi Gordon, what are the plans for Squouateur? Will he go to Cheltenham, if so which race?

#AskGordon Still no plans finalised

Mark McIlvaney @markmcilvaney dinaria des obeaux for the Fred winter?

#AskGordon See what Phil Smith does

Michael Catling @MichaelCatling will Tell Us More run in the Champion Chase?

#AskGordon Has an entry but may run in the County hurdle

Jim Moore @MonkrtyTunkerty _racing sum up the chances of Mick Jazz in the county hurdle. Thanks.

#AskGordon Must have a great chance after his last run, hopeful

Matt Cowburn @matt_cowburn When will we next see Poli Roi??

#AskGordon Bumper in Fairyhouse at Easter,

Andy @hendoracing, Will Minella till dawn run again this season please? Looks a lovely horse for the future,

#AskGordon Nice horse and will run in another novice hurdle in the near future all being well

Tom @tomdean93 do you have  any exciting horses running in the next few weeks? & who wins the gold cup?

#AskGordon One of my Gigginstown runners in the GC & Cracking Smart in the coming weeks

Conor @ConorC_  Where’s Desoto County being aimed? No entries at Cheltenham.

#AskGordon Out for the season

Jay‏ @mufc_fan_saf  What happened to Three Swallowsnick?

#AskGordon Out injured but hoping to have her back next season

Greg Blundell @TheGoodRhebel When will Campeador be back Gordon? looks like a serious horse if getting round safely

#AskGordon Probably next season at this stage

New Rules? @CrippsSean Is Icario definitely going to the Fred Winter? (depending on mark obviously)

#AskGordon No, wont run

Dan Kelly @muffinmannhc Is Ball D’Arc going to hunt for place money in the Arkle?

#AskGordon No, keeping him at home

Simpo @bensimpsonuk does Samcro definitely miss the festival?

#AskGordon Yep, Punchestown or Fairyhouse with him

Steeple Jack @JAlexanderKing Will Sire Du Berlais be running at the festival? If so which race seems most likely at this point?

#AskGordon No plans to run at the festival

JordanS @Shukes014  Where’s Mala Beach?

#AskGordon Out for the season, hoping to have him back in full health next season

Paul Cakebread @Onlygolfnhorses 2 of yrs I like Baltazar D’Allier & Tocororo. R they ok? What r the plans? Was lookin 4ward 2 seein BD’A in 1 NovHRace@Chelts??

#AskGordon Tocororo at stud, Baltazar to Navan

Richie Morris @richiem07 will Fayonagh run in the bumper at the festival?

#AskGordon Entered but will probably run in the Sandown mares bumper on Imperial Cup day

PatrickJ @PaidiDeFaoite What plans are in place for Suttons Place

#AskGordon Not Cheltenham but could head to Aintree or Fairyhouse at Easter

Olly Keen @ollykeen09  when will we see blow by blow on a racetrack?

#AskGordon Wont jump a hurdle at this stage of the season so probably next season

Antepost Racing @AntepostRacing Is Duca De Thaix going the Triumph?

#AskGordon No

Ryan Gethins @ryangethins is blow by blow or lucky pass running at cheltenham?

#askgordon Neither will be running at Cheltenham

Harold Martin @mdoonan1989 @BetfairRacing @gelliott_racing is Baltazar D’allier put away for a chasing campaign next year or will we see him again this year

#AskGordon Will have another run over hurdles, Probably Navan in a few weeks. Will make a nice Chaser next year


Here is a more comprehensive breakdown of the Mullins machines courtesy of!

Willie Mullins gave our man Ben Linfoot the very latest update on his likely team for the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

DJAKADAM He’s in good form. He hasn’t had any setback this year. Last year he got that nasty cut when he ran at Cheltenham and we just had enough time. This year we’ve had a clear run, a better run, to the Gold Cup.  It was part of the plan all along [to miss the Irish Gold Cup] and then when I saw the date I think it was about a week nearer this year between and I’m not sure that’s great for the Irish Gold Cup. Whether we need to see that moved back, I don’t know why it was so close this year. I think he’s more mature now. First year he was young, second year he had a bad prep. This year everything is going right. Would he need to improve? Would last year’s run do? I was very taken with his run at Christmas. We reflected afterwards that if we had used different tactics we might’ve had a different result. We’re happy with where we are now and that’s the important thing. Obviously it’s more open this year. We were 12-1 a week ago and 5-1 now, but it’s obviously been a funny year with injuries for a lot of people. It would be nice to win. We’ll hope, we’ll see. I’m looking at getting there, I’m not looking at other horses in the race. My horse has finished second in it the last few years we just need the ball bouncing in our favour a little bit more and it could happen.

DOUVAN Douvan’s in good order. Everything has gone well. At this stage we’re just trying to get there in one piece and hope things go right as well. He’s a lovely relaxed individual. Holly rides him every day and they go round there at their own pace. Just to get there and hopefully run his race. When you go to Cheltenham with a strong favourite it’s always relief rather than joy. There’s a fair bit of expectation with Douvan and you just hope it all goes alright and he gets there. You’ve just got to try and mind them as best you can and hope nothing stupid happens like a gust of wind frightening them and they clip into themselves or something like that. He’s not there yet, but the bar keeps rising and he keeps meeting it. He’s got to win a Champion Chase or maybe a couple of them. Maybe we’ll go in a different direction after that. He’s won everything we’ve asked him to win but you’ve got to win your championship races. I only think every morning about keeping him sound. I’ve younger horses in the yard I think might be a Champion Hurdle horse one day or a Gold Cup horse one day, but with him I just take it day by day and try to get him to the Festival and hoping nothing goes wrong on the day or in the race. It’s that narrow for me with him at the moment. I think I’ve said what I thought about him – that he could be the best that I’ve ever had – but he’s a long way to go to get there. He’s certainly got to get past Hurricane Fly, who did what he did.  The bar is high for him. We’d all like to win them (championship races). I think we’ve been second five or six times in the Gold Cup and we’ve probably had very few runners in the Champion Chase or the Stayers’ Hurdle. I’d like to tick them off if we can. I don’t really watch the replays, but there’s a few times he’s given me frights and everyone else is saying he jumped fantastic. Ruby says ‘I couldn’t see what you saw on the ground when I’m on his back’. He’s so in control and he’s got the scope to get in close or stand back. He seems to have everything. It’s rare for a horse of his size to stay so sound. Usually when they’re that big, things go wrong.

LIMINII would say it’s 50-50 [that she is supplemented for the Champion Hurdle]. I had a chat with Rich the other day and we both said we wouldn’t chat much more until the morning of the thing comes. A lot depends on how Vroum Vroum Mag goes between now and then, she’s obviously in the Mares’ Hurdle. I think if she’s fine and sparking, we probably might take a punt. I went to Punchestown thinking ‘am I mad going there’. Last year when Annie Power won it you’d would probably have said before the race would be a schooling hurdle for her, with what was in the race. This year I thought Apple’s Jade wouldn’t make it easy for us and maybe a hard race three weeks before Cheltenham is not good. But I thought we’d said we were going to run, so we probably had to turn up and I just hoped it wouldn’t turn into a race of attrition. We thought we’d ride the race Ruby did ride and everything just fell into place. What I didn’t think was that Limini could pull out and go past her without getting a slap, which begs two questions – have we improved that much? I thought we’d improved at home, but I didn’t know we’d improved that much and did Apple’s Jade run up to her form? If she did, I think we’re well entitled to go for the Champion Hurdle. Limini didn’t have a hard race and pulled out of it well. It was not more than she would do if we didn’t go to Punchestown and took her away somewhere. Her jumping has improved hugely from last year.

FOOTPAD will also run in the Champion Hurdle and I’d imagine I’ll try and get WICKLOW BRAVE there, he’s a course winner.Petit Mouchoir wasn’t going anywhere from Footpad so we’re hoping wherever he is we’re not far away. The track should suit us better at Cheltenham.

UN DE SCEAUX The one that’s hard to watch is Un De Sceaux. Every morning he goes out he wants to race, he’s a bit like Hurricane Fly, he wants to be competitive. He pulls, puts his head down and wants to get on with the job. You worry that he can go out there every morning and do that without pulling a muscle or overreaching, those type of horses are harder to mind. The Ryanair is the plan with him. Ground or no ground, that’s where we are. He won over two and a half miles on heavy ground as a four-year-old. He could get three miles now. He is keen but I think he’s settled a lot better than what he used to, I think fences have settled him down, and I think his last run showed how well he can settle. The horse is settling down as he gets older and I don’t think the trip will be a problem. He’s probably easier to ride in a race.

BLACK HERCULES is not pleasing me, you can put a line through him.

SHANESHILL goes for the Stayers’ Hurdle.

NICHOLS CANYON I’m not so sure about. He’s had an in-and-out year and I might leave him and go to Punchestown. He’s in the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers’ Hurdle. If I changed a few things with him and he started to bounce between now and then, I might bring him, but at the moment I could leave him at home.

CLONDAW WARRIOR also runs. He should probably have been running over three miles long before now. They’ve both got chances in it. It’s going to be tough for them, but they have each-way chances.

VROUM VROUM MAG I think Vroum Vroum will go for the Mares’ Hurdle. On her last performance, that’s all I can see her doing. I’d have no problem with her going back over fences but the hurdle programme is suiting her better at the moment. She was terrible at Doncaster. But she’s coming back right, we’re much happier with her. I think she was just brewing some sort of a cold and when we got home we gave her antibiotics. I gave her an easy time, she’s had bits of work since and we’re happier with her now she’s coming back to herself. I don’t think she could run in a Champion Hurdle after Doncaster. I don’t think we could ask her any of those questions now. The mares’ hurdle is the obvious route for her now.


I didn’t get YORKHILL going over fences until Christmas time. I thought I had the other two for the Champion Hurdle (Annie Power and Faugheen) and I said I’d let him go chasing. I thought about it [going back over hurdles] for about two seconds and then I said no. I spoke to Graham Wylie and he was thinking the same thing. We could always come back over hurdles next year, but we’ll see how he gets on in Cheltenham. We’re going for the JLT.

ROYAL CAVIAR goes for the Arkle. He’s in great order. We think he jumps very well and he’ll like nice ground.

I’m not sure where BELLSHILL will go, either the RSA or the four-mile (National Hunt Chase). We’re blaming ourselves [for previous Cheltenham defeats].

HAYMOUNT will go for the RSA or the four-miler, probably the four-miler. I thought he hated the ground the other day. He jumps well. He wants nice ground, he’s settled down a lot. I’d be happy enough he’ll get the trip in the four-miler.


We’ll probably have four or five runners. MELON, BUNK OFF EARLY, CRACK MOME, CILAOS EMERY – those four, anyway. Melon is a horse with plenty of ability who jumps well. He’s a fine, strong, tall horse who has the ability but doesn’t have the experience. The form in the two-mile division is not as strong as other years. We’ll find out on the day, I suppose. When you’re looking at what Melon does at home, all the time, I’d say it will be an easy enough decision for Ruby. Fiveforthree won the Neptune after one run and Melon has plenty of jumping experience at home. He seems a natural jumper. I suppose when I bought him I thought ‘Champion Hurdle horse’ but if you look at the size of him now I think he’s really grown and matured. He could easily jump fences. Let’s see what he does here first. I think both Crack Mome and Cilaos Emery have good enough form to be placed in it if not win it if things go right for them. All of them will improve.


KEMBOY, SATURNAS, MONTALBANO and BACARDYS. Saturnas didn’t ride out this morning. He’s pulled a muscle and hopefully he’ll be all right in a few days. Montalbano could be Neptune. I don’t know what to do with him, he’s very keen. Bacardys probably did surprise me in the Deloitte, but I was happy with the way he did it with the tactics we used. He’ll probably go for the Neptune, rather than the Albert Bartlett. He’s a horse we did think a lot of and the Deloitte put him back on track. INVITATION ONLY is 50-50. We might keep him for Fairyhouse.


AUGUSTA KATE looks like she’d want a longer trip, so I’d say she could go Albert Bartlett. C’EST JERSEY could be Albert Bartlett. PENHILL could run. BON PAPA could be another one, we’ll have to see what connections want to do. Augusta Kate was upsides him [Death Duty] and that form puts her in with a good… she could easily run in the Albert Bartlett. No I wouldn’t be [afraid of taking Death Duty on again]. BATTLEFORD could go for the Albert Bartlett as well.


The obvious one for LET’S DANCE would be the mares’ novice. We seem to have a few a few nice ones for that, but at the moment I would have to say it will possibly be the mares’ novice. She’s a second-season novice, which is a big help to her. That would look the easiest one, but she could slot in any of the novice races and mares’ form seems to be good this year. I think the mares form is stacking up better than the geldings form. AIRLIE BEACH probably has to take her on. I don’t think we’d run her in the Supreme.


I think the nice ones are BAPAUME and MERI DEVIE. I think they will go. DANDY MAG is also entered in the Triumph but I don’t think he will run. I was disappointed with Meri Devie last time, she’s a lot better than that. I probably gave her too much time off after her first run. Maybe she needs to be trained a bit more like a gelding. She’s been in good order since. She’s growing and putting on weight so I can afford to be a good bit harder on her over the next few weeks. Ruby had huge time for her before the last day and I made him ride Bapaume, when he wanted to ride her. He thinks she’s a fair mare and she’s not out of it by any means. Bapaume had won a Grade 2 before, she’d won a maiden hurdle. I thought it was a simple enough decision. I think he’ll need to improve but they both should be competitive.


CARTER McKAY goes there. NEXT DESTINATION goes there. The two fillies, RED HOT FILLY PEPPERS and MYSTICAL THEATRE are also entered. Carter would be the one wouldn’t he? He’d been doing nice work at home and it was better than I’d hoped. You don’t go expecting a performance like that. I suppose he does [compare favourably with his past bumper winners]. That performance the other day would compare favourably with anything. He’s a fair machine. Next Destination works well.


Our horses usually get somewhere between 6-8lb over their Irish weight. If ISLEOFOPENDREAMS does he should get in the Pertemps. I don’t like giving out about handicappers. You enter, you run, you take it or leave it. People get upset about the handicapper, I try not to. We’ve been lucky to win handicap hurdles. I don’t think we’ve ever been sighted in a handicap chase at Cheltenham. IVAN GROZNY could go for a handicap. BLAZER’s entered in a handicap or two. ARCTIC FIRE is in good order, he’s working well. I stuck him in the County Hurdle to see, it’s probably 50-50 whether he runs or not we’ll see what kind of work he does in the next few days.



Further Cheltenham News

Interesting thoughts on-line @

Which festival bankers are most vulnerable? By Tony McFadden 8:00PM 27 FEB 2017

BOOKMAKERS took a battering at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, with a succession of well-backed winners sending punters home happy. There are six horses trading at shorter than 2-1 for this year’s meeting, and how they fare could make or break the week for punters and layers. In a bid to ensure this year’s festival is another 2016, we’ve ranked the hot favourites in order of shaky to certs.

  1. On The Fringe St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase (6-4 generally)

Pros: Has dominated the hunter chase scene for the last two years, winning this contest before completing the festival treble at Aintree and Punchestown. Now a 12-year-old but looked as good as ever when posting a highly-encouraging second to Foxrock on recent reappearance at Leopardstown.

Cons: Only scrambled home in last season’s race and this year’s renewal could be stronger with Wonderful Charm, a high-class Grade 2-winning chaser at his peak, not needing to come off the bridle to win on both starts in hunter chases. Prolific winner Ask The Weatherman brings a big reputation from the pointing sphere and impressed when slamming a formerly smart chaser at Wincanton recently.

Conclusion: The horse to beat but doesn’t make appeal at such a short price against a couple of strong contenders, in what is likely to be a chaotic 20-plus-runner cavalry charge.

  1. Vroum Vroum Mag OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (6-4 generally)

Pros: Consistent, versatile mare who has been beaten just once in 13 starts since joining Willie Mullins. Was an impressive winner of this race last year and the 2m4f trip appeals as her optimum.

Cons: Often compared to illustrious stablemate Annie Power but does not boast a piece of form to suggest she is nearly as good as last season’s Champion Hurdle winner. Her one defeat was inflicted by likely rival Apple’s Jade, and she was well below her best at Doncaster last time when narrowly winning at 1-5.

Conclusion: Arguably should have beaten Apple’s Jade at Fairyhouse when set plenty to do, and meets that rival on 4lb better terms. But there’s not a great deal between the pair in terms of ability and her lacklustre effort last time – on the back of a hard race over a stamina-sapping three miles – has to be a concern.

  1. Unowhatimeanharry Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (11-8 Betfair)

Pros: Successful on all eight starts since joining Harry Fry and hasn’t had to pull out all the stops to register a hat-trick of Graded-race successes this season. Twice a winner over course and distance and holds rock-solid claims.

Cons: Not as far clear on ratings as you may expect for a horse trading so close to evens, so may not be able to get away with performing much below his best if other rivals bring their A-game.

Conclusion: By far the most likely winner but not a great deal of juice in his price, and both Shaneshill and 2015 winner Cole Harden appeal as legitimate rivals, particularly if the ground is good.

  1. Yorkhill JLT Novices’ Chase (7-4 Betfair, Coral and Ladbrokes)

Pros: Looked a potential top-notcher when comfortably beating Champion Hurdle hope Yanworth in last season’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle, and further displayed his huge engine when following up at Aintree despite refusing to settle and pulling hard throughout. Not hard pressed to win both starts over fences and has a clear edge over his rivals in terms of raw ability.

Cons: Not straightforward – as evidenced by his hard-pulling antics – and has displayed a tendency to jump to his left.

Conclusion: Plenty will be willing to take him on having displayed a shaky jumping technique and signs of temperament, but he remains an exciting prospect and by some distance the most talented horse in the race.

  1. Altior Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy (1-3 generally)

Pros: Wide-margin winner of last year’s red-hot Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and has taken well to chasing this season, winning all four starts with ease, including against more experienced rivals at Newbury last time. The heir apparent to Sprinter Sacre and is rated higher than that superstar was at the same stage of their careers.

Cons: Jumping largely an asset, but stood a long way off a couple at Sandown and wouldn’t want to take similar liberties with the stiff Cheltenham fences.

Conclusion: A potential superstar whose presence will make the distance markets more interesting than the outright betting. Will win barring a fall.

  1. Douvan Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (1-3 generally)

Pros: Eight-time Grade 1 winner who is unbeaten in 13 starts for Willie Mullins, including two authoritative successes at the festival. Regarded by many as the best horse in training and has significantly better form than all his likely opponents in what will be a small-field renewal.

Cons: Looks bombproof. But you won’t get rich backing him.

Conclusion: A cut above his rivals and should be a formality.


Lucky 15 February 27th

Monday 6.00pm Today is Willie Mullins Cheltenham Media day and it looks like Kevin Blake from at the races is quickest out of the blocks and so I’ll pass the quotes on. More details in Tuesdays Racing Post. I believe it’s Gordon Elliott tomorrow.

 Willie Mullins Mon. Feb. 27th. This is not the full team, I believe he paraded 34 for the press and I wouldn’t even have that down as the full team! Please take Willie’s thoughts with as many pinches of salt as you may feel necessary!

AIRLIE BEACH “I imagine she’ll run in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle and while it is looking like being a tough race, she’s in great form.”

ARCTIC FIRE “He is in good order and has worked well. We thought about entering him in the Champion Hurdle, but decided not to as we didn’t think he’d be ready, but he is coming along nicely so we have entered him in the County Hurdle. I’d say he’s still only 50/50 to be ready in time and we’ll see what he’s like in the coming days.”

AUGUSTA KATE “I think she’s going to need a longer trip, so we are thinking about the Albert Bartlett for her at the moment. I wouldn’t be afraid to take on Death Duty again, as she was running a fine race upsides him when falling last time.”

BACARDYS “He surprised us a little bit when he won the Deloitte. I was happy with how he did it given the tactics we used on him, as he’s a horse that should stay further. He will probably go for the Neptune rather than the Albert Bartlett.”

BALLYWARD “He has been entered in the Champion Bumper, but he pulled a muscle the other day and we’ll have to see how he recovers from that before making a decision on his participation.”

BAPAUME “The plan is to run him in the Triumph Hurdle. He’ll need to improve to win it, but I’d be hoping he can be competitive.”

BELLSHILL “I don’t know what to make of his last run, though he did run poorly at that meeting last season too. He seemed in better form this morning, to be fair to him. We ran him in the wrong race at Cheltenham last season and I think he’ll end up going for one of the longer novice chases this year, either the RSA Chase or the National Hunt Chase.

BUNK OFF EARLY “The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle looks to be the race for him. He is by Zebedee, but we were hopeful that he would get the trip over hurdles based on his form on the Flat. He is a strong horse in the mornings and has taken a good grip in his races. He ran very well in the Deloitte and based on that, the shorter trip of the Supreme should suit him.”

CARTER MCKAY “He looks the pick of our bumper horses based on what he did in his last start and he will run in the Champion Bumper. Any horse that can win as he did at Naas is a fair machine. I can’t imagine the ground will be any great concern for him regardless of how it turns up. We haven’t talked about riding plans for the bumpers yet, but it might be hard to dislodge Patrick off him!”

DJAKADAM “He’s in great form. Going into the Gold Cup last season he had to come back from that bad cut he got at Cheltenham and we only just had him ready in time, but we’ve had a much clearer run with him this season and fingers crossed it will stay like that. We decided to not run him in the Irish Gold Cup as the fact that it was a week closer to the Cheltenham Gold Cup wasn’t ideal. I think he is a more mature horse this season and is the age that many chasers are in their prime. I was happy with his run in the Lexus, but afterwards we felt we could have used different tactics that might have worked better. The most important thing is that everything has gone right for him lately. I don’t know if he’ll need to improve on what he has done in the last two years to win the race this year.

DOUVAN “He’s in great form and everything has gone smoothly with him. He’s a huge horse and it’s rare for one of his size to stay as sound as he has. At this stage we are just hoping he gets to the Champion Chase in one piece and after that, we’ll hope things go right on the day. He’s easy to watch in the mornings, as he’s a lovely relaxed horse that is ridden by Holly every day and they go round there at their own pace. Even with horses like that, there is always the possibility that something stupid will happen, so we just focus on keeping them right and getting them there. When you go to Cheltenham with a strong favourite, it’s always a case of relief rather than joy when they win. We aren’t thinking beyond this year’s Cheltenham Festival with him. That is our focus.”

FOOTPAD “He will run in the Champion Hurdle. We are hoping that Cheltenham will suit him better than Petit Mouchoir, so wherever he finishes, we are hopeful we’ll be ahead of him.“

INVITATION ONLY “He’s only 50/50 to get to Cheltenham at this stage and we might keep him for Fairyhouse. We had a little bit of a setback with him and I just haven’t been 100% happy with him since. That said, he has been a bit better in recent days, but the worry is whether I have enough done with him to get him to Cheltenham.”

LET’S DANCE “The obvious race for her would be the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, but she could slot in anywhere. We have a few nice horses that are eligible for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and some of them are likely to have to take each other on in it. I think the step up in trip has been a big help to her, as is the fact that she has more hurdling experience than most novices.”

LIMINI “I went to Punchestown questioning whether I was mad to run her there, as it was hard to see her not having a hard race with Apple’s Jade in there. With just three weeks to Cheltenham that would be far from ideal, so I debated whether I should take her out of the race or not. I just hoped it wouldn’t turn into a slog and everything fell into place for her. I was very happy with how well she settled and jumped. While I thought she had improved based on homework, I wasn’t sure she had improved that much and that leads you to question whether Apple’s Jade ran up to her form. However, more important is that Limini didn’t have a hard race and has come out of it well. We haven’t made a decision on her Cheltenham target yet, but I’d say it’s 50/50 between the Champion Hurdle and the Mares’ Hurdle. I had a quick chat with Rich and we both said we wouldn’t chat much more about it until the morning when she would have to be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle. A lot depends on how Vroum Vroum Mag is between now and then too, but the more I think about, if Vroum Vroum is fine and sparkling, we might take a punt with Limini and run in the Champion Hurdle.”

MELON “He’s a fine, strong, tall horse with plenty of ability, but is one that lacks experience. We are likely to have plenty of runners in the race including Bunk Off Early who has Grade 1 form, but based on homework, I’d say it will be an easy enough decision for Ruby to ride Melon. He has only had one run over hurdles, though we did train Fiveforthree to win the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle on just his second start over hurdles, so we’ve done it before albeit not in the Supreme. He has plenty of jumping experience at home and he seems a natural jumper too. I wouldn’t be worried about his lack of experience from a mental perspective either.”

MERI DEVIE “She’ll run in the Triumph Hurdle and I think she’s a lot better than she showed in the Spring Juvenile. I probably gave her too much time off after her maiden hurdle win and maybe she needs to be trained more like a gelding. I will train her a good bit harder between now and Cheltenham and I’d be hopeful that would bring about improvement. I know Ruby had a lot of time for her and wanted to ride her in the Spring Juvenile, but I pretty much made him ride Bapaume as he had the form in the book. I’m sure he’ll have a good think about which one to ride at Cheltenham.”

NICHOLS CANYON “I’m not so sure about Nichols Canyon. He has had an in-and-out season and I might just leave him off until the Punchestown Festival. I’ve changed a few things with home recently and if he starts to sparkle, he might go to Cheltenham yet, but at the moment he isn’t looking the likeliest of runners there.”

PENHILL “The Albert Bartlett is the plan for him and I think three miles on better ground will suit him well. It was always the plan to freshen him up after Christmas, he has had no setbacks and is in great order. Stepping up in trip seemed to help his jumping last time and he has the ability to compete at that level.”

ROYAL CAVIAR “He’s in great order and definitely goes for the Arkle. He wouldn’t have a typical profile of an Arkle horse, but he jumps very well and we think he’ll like better ground, so we’re hopeful for a good run.”

SATURNAS “He is after pulling a muscle and he didn’t ride out this morning. I’m hoping it’s just a muscle issue and he’ll be alright in a few days, but we’ll have to wait and see with it.”

SHANESHILL “The Stayers’ Hurdle is the plan for him. I think he has improved a bit and he looks to have a solid each-way chance.”

UN DE SCEAUX “Regardless of the ground, the Ryanair Chase is the plan for him at the moment. I’m not worried about his stamina given that he won over two-and-a-half miles on heavy ground in France as a four-year-old. He is a lot more settled now than he was then and I felt his last run showed just how well he can settle nowadays. The Champion Hurdle has been raised as a possibility for him by some in recent weeks, but it has never really come into my mind for him. He is never an easy horse to watch, as he’s a bit like Hurricane Fly in that every morning he goes out, he wants to race and be competitive. With a horse that does that, you’re just always wondering whether he can get away with doing that every morning without pulling a muscle or overreaching. That he has stayed sound is a testament to him.”

VROUM VROUM MAG “She ran terrible at Doncaster last time! We think she might have been brewing some sort of a cold, so we gave her antibiotics when she came home and she seems to be coming back to herself in recent days. We would find it difficult to run her in a Champion Hurdle off the back of that performance, so the Mares’ Hurdle seems the obvious target for her. She is likely to go back over fences at some stage, but the hurdle programme is suiting her well at the moment. “

WICKLOW BRAVE “I think he will run in the Champion Hurdle. He has won at the track and that will stand to him. The softer the ground, the better his chance.”

YORKHILL “The JLT is the plan and all is good with him. We aren’t considering the Arkle for him, but if Altior wants to take us on in the JLT, he’s quite welcome to! The Champion Hurdle was very much in my mind for him earlier this season and it was nearly Christmas by the time we decided to send him chasing, at which stage we still had Faugheen and Annie Power in the mix for the Champion Hurdle. I did briefly think about switching him back to hurdles after those two met with their setbacks, but I had a quick chat with Graham Wylie and we decided to stick with our original decision.”

No sign of the handicappers and not all his entries in the novice hurdles nor Bumper mentioned. Basically nothing new!

Tuesday Lucky 15

I am sorry but I’ve been through tomorrows Jumps cards at Leicester and Catterick a couple of times and with winter ground, small fields, hunter chases I just can’t find four selections to put in a Lucky 15 and so it will just have to be the one selection and it’s each way at that!!

Leicester 2.10                         THREEOFAKIND                      7/1 Ladbrokes 13/2 general                               

In his last run he looked to be getting his chasing act together, jumping better and moving into contention he was hampered and unseated his rider! The same jockey, Conor Shoemark, is aboard again tomorrow and off a mark of just OR104 trainer Fergal O’Brien seems to have found an ideal opportunity for Three of a Kind to open his account over 2m4f+ over the larger obstacles on this Soft (Good to Soft in places) ground.


Saturday Lucky 15

Just too many places Saturday with Double Shuffle and Knockanrawley second and Shogun Paddy third! If you don’t go in that holding, heavy ground you simply don’t!

Kempton 1.15                        ARGANTE                                PU 6/1

“Nico de Boinville, the rider of ARGANTE (FR), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding stopped quickly. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of ARGANTE (FR) during routine testing revealed the gelding to be suffering from cardiac arrhythmia.” I think that’s an irregular heartbeat to you and me!

Kempton 3.00                        CAPTAIN FOREZ                     Non Runner

Chepstow 3.40                       RED HANRAHAN                    PU 8/1

Always rear, never competitive. Couldn’t see a lot in the murky conditions!

Kempton 4.10                        FULL SHIFT                              2nd 13/8F

I never learn! Gets going too late and I just wonder if this horse is inappropriately named!! Keeps a bit for himself?

Further Cheltenham News

Joseph O’Brien expects Landofhopeandglory to go for gold in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival. The four-year-old also has entries in the Fred Winter, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Neptune. However, after finishing third behind Dinaria Des Obeaux in a Grade Three event at Fairyhouse on Saturday, O’Brien believes the Triumph on March 17 is the most likely option. He said: “Landofhopeandglory ran well as he hadn’t run for two months and it was heavy ground. I was happy with him. More than likely he will go for the Triumph rather than the Fred Winter. He seems OK and hopefully he will be OK during the week.” Joseph O’ Brien February 27 2017, 11:11

O’Brien is also mulling a run in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper for West Coast Time, who was beaten by Carter McKay at Naas earlier this month. He added: “West Coast Time is a possible for the Bumper at Cheltenham, but he wouldn’t want the ground too quick. He won well in soft ground at Cork.” Joseph O’ Brien February 27 2017, 11:11 Latest news Sunday February 26 Alan might have to wait a while to hear whether Barry Geraghty will choose Yanworth over Nicky Henderson’s Buveur d’Or as his mount for next month’s Champion Hurdle, but after Saturday’s double at Kempton several more pieces in the Barbury jigsaw for the Cheltenham Festival were slotted into place. Reflecting on another excellent day, Alan said:”River Frost might skip Cheltenham altogether, but Master Blueyes, who was impressive in winning the Adonis, has earned his place in the Triumph Hurdle field. I wasn’t sure we had one good enough for the Triumph this year, but Master Blueyes has come on enormously these last couple of weeks, so much so that we decided to find out just where we stood by running him at Kempton. It was annoying that Wayne was not allowed to ride after his fall at Exeter on Friday, but Tom Bellamy seized his chance and rode a super race. That victory at Ludlow gave Master Blueyes so much confidence, so it looks like the Triumph for him with Coeur de Lion, who is owned by another of the Barbury Lions syndicates put together by former Warwick chairman David Hill, likely to head for the Fred Winter at Cheltenham. We ran Elgin in the Dovecote to see whether it was worth going for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the opening day, and, though he was beaten fair and square by River Wylde, I thought he ran a super race and was pleased how well he battled after his mistake at the last, so we’ll probably take our chance at Cheltenham, too.”  “We are absolutely thrilled to have Rory Delargy (@helynsar) on board as our “Irish Columnist” this season. For his first article, Rory picks out five Festival dark-horses to watch closely when they make the trip from Ireland to Cheltenham next month…

Everyone with a passing knowledge of recent racing history will expect Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott to have a major say in the distribution of prizemoney at Cheltenham in March, but it is a naïve man who believes that only these two yards should be given serious consideration when running the rule over the contenders, and there were no less than five winners from other Irish stables at last year’s Festival. So who are the horses from the less-fashionable Irish yards who should be noted this time around? There are plenty, and some of them need little introduction such is the strength of their claims. Here are five of the less obvious ones:

Mall Dini (Pat Kelly) It might be a little cheeky to include last year’s Pertemps winner as a dark horse, but trainer Pat Kelly, who trains this son of Milan for Philip Reynolds is a shrewd operator, and there is no doubt that Mall Dini is a fair bit better than he’s shown over fences, his runs coming over trips short of what will be his optimum, and this ex-pointer jumps well enough (aside from a chance-ending mistake last time) to suggest he will be even better as a chaser than he was over timber. His win in the Pertemps came off a BHA mark of 139, and the Irish handicapper has dropped him to 141 after his latest start. We need to wait until next week to discover what Phil Smith’s assessment is, but it will be disappointing if he’s more than a couple of pounds higher here than he is at home, in which case he would look very interesting in either the Ultima on Tuesday, or the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir on the New Course two days later. Kelly has tended to seek the services of Davy Russell for him in the past, so the Ultima is the obvious race, but the stiffer test of the Kim Muir might actually suit better, so it will be intriguing to see what race is preferred. He’s also in the National Hunt Chase on the opening day, but that looks an unlikely option.

Powersbomb (Brian McMahon)

This is a more left-field suggestion, and with a Turf Club rating of 130, he could do with the BHA team being on the harsh side if he’s going to make the cut for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase on Tuesday of Cheltenham, but he wouldn’t be out of place in terms of ability, his latest second in a competitive Leopardstown affair likely to have been a win but for a bad error at the second last fence – going into the fence he was travelling well in a narrow lead, but after propping badly on landing, found himself relegated to sixth. The fact that he could battle back to regain the lead on the run-in says plenty for both his talent and resolution, and the only horse to come out of that race since has been successful. He has been transformed by a switch to front running over fences, and while the fact that he’s hit the deck twice will put plenty off, it’s notable that 50% of previous winners of this race had previously fallen over fences. Brian McMahon could not be more obscure as a trainer, and the County Sligo handler was gaining his first winner over fences when Powersbomb won a maiden chase at Clonmel in December.

Scoir Mear (Tom Mullins)

Tom Mullins has already got his name on the Festival roll of honour with Alderwood winning the County Hurdle in 2012 and the Grand Annual a year later, and like that horse, Scoir Mear is owned by JP McManus. Having shown promise in bumpers under different ownership, the son of Exit To Nowhere was beaten an aggregate of 240 lengths on his first four starts over hurdles, but he’s progressed well since switched to handicaps, overcoming an early tendency to runner-up ace freely in winning his first two starts this season, and he’s run even better when second the last twice, giving the impression he would have been unbeaten this season under different circumstances, pressing on early enough when caught by the well-regarded Automated at Navan (the useful Gurteen fully twenty lengths back in third), and then given a bit too much to do when runner-up to Moores Road at Cork last time. He’s guaranteed a run in the Coral Cup, and is one to take very seriously indeed.

Presenting Percy (Pat Kelly) Pat Kelly has fewer runners than the majority of Irish trainers, but eight of his 49 runners in the last year have obliged, including Mall Dini at the Cheltenham Festival, and he’s making an audacious to win back-to-back Pertemps Finals with Presenting Percy, who also sports the silks of Philip Reynolds. The son of Sir Percy absolutely bolted up in a competitive handicap at Fairyhouse on Saturday, and while that win will serve notice to the British Handicapper as to how smart he is, it’s no bad thing to advertise your well-being in the month before Cheltenham, and as long as he isn’t hit with a rise of a stone or more, he looks to have a tremendous chance in Thursday’s three-mile contest. The ground was heavy at Fairyhouse, but the six-year-old gelding has a good-ground action and ought not be inconvenienced by underfoot conditions whatever the weather does.

Velvet Maker (Alan Fleming) On the face of it, Alan Fleming’s Velvet Maker was disappointing in last year’s Johnny Henderson Grand Annual, but it’s clear watching a replay that he paid for being given an overly-aggressive ride by Adrian Heskin, and that is unlikely to be the case now that the ice-cool Denis O’Regan has taken over as owner Barry Connell’s stable jockey, and the veteran rider is in his element when riding front runners. Velvet Maker has only run once since last year’s Festival, and shaped with loads of promise when third to Grand Partner at Leopardstown a couple of weeks ago, travelling like the best horse throughout but beaten by a combination of lack of fitness, a rare last-flight error and interference on the run-in. He is engaged in races over hurdles and fences, but the County Hurdle is fiendishly tough, whereas another crack at the Grand Annual looks a more realistic assignment, and he will arrive fresher than most.


– See more at:

Lucky 15 February 24th

Friday 6.00pm  Obviously on tenterhooks for tomorrow with last week’s winner Vieux Lion Rouge running onto Shotgun Paddy (took 10’s about 7’s tonight!) in the Eider at Newcastle at 2.45 and Double Shuffle (took 10’s about 5’s tonight!) in the Betbright at Kempton at 3.35! Good luck to all of you who followed the blog ten days ago “Hoover up that 14/1 each way ¼ 1,2,3,4 right now. He’ll go off half those odds.” Here’s the latest:- Double Shuffle update “George said: “He was placed at the (Cheltenham) Festival over two-mile-five last season but even then he was running a bit too free and doing too much the whole way. We then tried to drop him in in the BetVictor Gold Cup and that was an unmitigated disaster, he hated it. He wants to get on with things a bit and the key is to get him to settle. We put a hood on him at Kempton last time out and it worked a treat as he gets to be ridden prominently, which he likes, but it just keeps a lid on him. That was over course and distance and he stayed it well and he appreciates a bit of decent ground.”  Shotgun Paddy, Jockey Daryl Jacob in his blog “I head up to Newcastle on Saturday where I’m hoping Shotgun Paddy has a great chance in the feature Betfred Eider Chase. He ran very well at Warwick the last day where the ground wasn’t quite testing enough for him. Going back up to four miles here is very much in his favour and I’m looking forward to riding him in a race in which he finished second last year.” His trainer Emma Lavelle said: “He’s no stranger to staying chases and he’s no stranger to the Eider. This has been very much the target since Warwick when he ran well there. It’s fantastic prize-money and we’re hoping to take some of it home. He’s a cool customer and a pleasure to train, you can do anything with him.”

Here is the original blog. Thurs. Feb. 16th 1.15pm

4m BetFred Eider Chase, Newcastle Sat 25th Feb. This race is all about jumping well enough to get into a rhythm and then having stamina in abundance and for the past two years I have thought this race is ideal for Shotgun Paddy. In 2015 he was sent off as 11/2 favourite, clouted an early fence and was never involved and eventually unseated. Last year he was second ridden by Davy Russell when he just couldn’t give two stones to Rocking Blues and ten pound claimer Lorcan Murtagh and now he is back as a 10yo off a mark seven pounds lower and in some form. His first run at Cheltenham when seventh to Viconte de Noyer was excellent as he only faded from the second last and he built on that when an eye-catching third to One for Arthur in Warwick’s BetFred Classic. He travelled well, got a tad outpaced but stayed on really well in the home straight. He has never been the neatest of jumpers but he has seemed to have cut out the big mistake that use to end his chance. Daryl Jacob wouldn’t be my first choice of jockey and prefer a horseman such as Russell, Noel Fehily or Leighton Aspell, who have all ridden Paddy before! Currently available at 10/1 with sponsors Betfred but plenty of 12/1 on line and Shotgun Paddy has to be a solid each way selection ¼ 1,2,3,4.

Ever since I saw Knockanrawley finish fourth to Sausalito Sunrise in the 3m chase at Cheltenham on Paddy Power day eighteen months ago I have had his name down for one of these extreme staying chases when there is a bit of cut in the ground. Couple of issues were that after Cheltenham he didn’t run again for fifteen months but made a terrific comeback in the Classic at Warwick at a time when his trainer Kim Bailey couldn’t buy a winner! Well the yard has now revisited the winner’s enclosure and although this fragile, gutsy grey may “bounce” at a general 16/1 ¼ 1,2,3,4 I am willing to have an each way tickle.

3m Betbright Chase, Kempton Sat 25th Feb. At the Double! To crack these big Saturday handicaps you need a man with a very definite plan and here is what Tom George put on his website after Double Shuffle won over course and distance at Christmas, DOUBLE SHUFFLE (IRE) appeared to relish the conditions and step up in trip when winning the 3m Handicap Chase on the same card. Adrian had him well placed throughout and he stayed on strongly to win with plenty in hand. Giving him less work at home seems to be the key with him and could explain his disappointing run in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham. He will now be aimed for the Grade 3 BetBright Handicap Chase back at Kempton on February 25th.” But does Double Shuffle have the right profile for the race? Absolutely! He ticks every box in the top nine BetBright Chase Betting Trends.

14/15 – Rated 139 or higher             13/15 – Finished in the top 5 last time out     12/15 – Had raced within the last 8 weeks

12/15 – Aged 9 or younger               12/15 – Won a class 2 chase or better before 10/15 – Carried 10-13 or more

10/15 – Had won over at least 3m (fences) before      10/15 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting

10/15 – Came from the top 4 in the betting

This horse was placed at the Cheltenham Festival meeting last season, is still improving especially for the step up in trip and the red hot connections think they have found the key to him! I am really keen on this one and the only firm priced up is good old Paddy Power! Hoover up that 14/1 each way ¼ 1,2,3,4 right now. He’ll go off half those odds.


Here’s an interesting tweet from yesterday. Pat Mustard‏@sinbinsuroor   My festival lays Moon Racer, Yanworth, Finians Oscar, Messire Des Obeaux, Might Bite, Defi Du Seoul, Cue Card, Bacardy.s” Will he be out of pocket? Discuss.

And here’s another Michael Looby‏@michaellooby2  Hidden Impact a very interesting one in the bumper at Chepstow Sat, ran a nice race behind Carter McKay in his PtP”

One for the Tracker:- “@bourkemossy How promising is Rebel Commander? Related to Rather Be and Sign Of A Victory; what do you like about this family?

I like him a lot and he was entered up in bumpers this weekend although we decided not to take up the engagements but he’s fit, well and ready to run. He’ll be out very shortly.” Nicky Henderson/SJ blog 24th Feb

Today it’s Cheltenham thoughts from David Pipe, Henry de Bromhead and Colin Tizzard.           


Saturday Lucky 15

Obviously would like to put Shotgun Paddy and Double Shuffle in but hard to put a horse up when I’m holding a ticket at twice the price! So we’ll go with the big yards this Saturday as they move up a gear with just three weeks to Cheltenham!

Kempton 1.15                        ARGANTE                                6/1 PP 11/2 general     

Kempton 3.00                        CAPTAIN FOREZ                     13/2 PP 11/2 general

Chepstow 3.40                       RED HANRAHAN                    9/1 general

Kempton 4.10                        FULL SHIFT                              7/4 general 11/8 PP??


and here’s why


Kempton 1.15                        ARGANTE I like Mr Hendersons positive message on his blog on a horse who I thought was better than your average Fakenham winner, “ARGANTE will very much like the trip and the ground and won quite well at Fakenham last time but this is a much more competitive contest. That said, he’s a good, hardy sort of a horse who has been doing everything right and has a nice low weight so I expect him to be thereabouts.”

Kempton 3.00                        CAPTAIN FOREZ You all know I love a man with a plan and my favourite man is Dan Skelton, so it’s bells ringing when he puts this on his Friday Coral blog, “ Captain Forez has always been targeting this race since he ran at Ascot, whereas with Mister Universum we were just umming and ahhing; that’s just the way it’s worked out. Captain Forez has nice form with Capitaine. They meet each other on exactly the same terms on a track that is probably slightly more in favour of Capitaine. If this race was a round Newbury I would be quite bullish. Having said that our horse is an improving horse that we like an awful lot. I do think he will run very well.” Like the fact brother Harry rides, Captain Forez gets weight off most of the field and he seems an improving type. Just have a feeling this race may throw up an Aintree winner or two.

Chepstow 3.40                       RED HANRAHAN Well touted from the Irish PtP scene he should have won on hurdling debut but came down three out when galloping all over none other than Royal Vacation! Horse has a big engine but is a little casual at his obstacles. Impressed on his return this season when tanking through a good race at Newbury only to blow up two out. Trainer Paul Nicholls on his Betrfair blog puts him in with a shout. “Returned to action later than planned at Newbury a fortnight ago after a little setback before Christmas. He travelled nicely through that race before getting there a little bit too soon and then tiring late on. He is bound to improve for that outing, will be fine on the soft ground at Chepstow and a decent show here should be enough to qualify him for the Pertemps Final at Newbury. Good each-way chance.” He is entered for the Pertemps but to even get in he would probably have to win here, a fact I’m sure will be spelt out to top jockey, young Harry Cobden!!

Kempton 4.10                        FULL SHIFT This horse is a course and distance winner in this grade, C3, but he is surely better than that. He’s been well fancied for much bigger pots than this indeed went off at just 7/1 to win the Brown Plate at last year’s Cheltenham Festival! The connections of Henderson/McManus/Geraghty won’t help the price but I share the trainer’s enthusiasm, “He’s got winning form at the track which counts for plenty and I’ve put a set of cheek pieces on to help him too. He’s in good form at home and 2m4f around Kempton is just what he wants.”


Friday Lucky 15

Just the one winner but at a decent price and a return of £28 we almost doubled our money!

Warwick 2.00                         GLOBAL STAGE                                   Fell 5/4

Weakened from three out in very holding ground. Tired fall at the last. Disappointing.

Exeter 2.45                             GRACEFUL LEGEND                            1st 9/1

Pushed all the way up the straight, still a length down at the last but battled to the line to beat the favourite. Gutsy mare!

Exeter 3.50                             AUDACIOUS PLAN                             PU 14/1

Jumped three of the first six far too big and never got in any sort of rhythm. Fair to say never picked a hoof up and had no intention to do so. Pulled up before third last.    

Warwick 4.45                         MUCKLE ROE                                      3rd 15/2

Progress down the back straight to get into contention leaving the back straight but left for dead by the front two on the run for home.                           


Colin Tizzard’s contenders for the Cheltenham Festival Greg Wood The Guardian Fri. 24th Feb. Colin Tizzard was the latest trainer to open his yard to the media yesterday ahead of next month’s Festival at Cheltenham and, while much of the attention will be on Native River and Cue Card, the market-leaders for the Gold Cup on 17 March, he will have leading contenders for Grade Ones and handicaps throughout the four days. Here’s what he had to say about his main contenders.

Cue Card It was amazing the reception he got for winning at Ascot. He’s 11 years old and he should have won but he jumped better, right back to his very best, he was fluid and came away when he wanted and sauntered home. If he was a seven-year-old you’d say that he was just approaching his peak. I didn’t need to watch [last year’s Gold Cup] more than twice. The competition is to jump the fences and gallop three miles two and he didn’t. It’s a big occasion for all of us and hopefully he won’t be in that position again. Paddy [Brennan, jockey] came up with the idea to go to Ascot. He said two and a half miles around there would get his jumping slick and it’s worked out a treat, it was a lovely prep race for him. He started off as a champion bumper horse and he’s still winning Grade Ones at 11, so he’s done everything bar win a GC. It was his own making really that he fell last year but there’s everything to play for. I wasn’t that disappointed last year. The horse came back and so we’ve got another chance, and we actually thought the chance was going or gone, but he’s got equally as good a chance this year as last year.

Native River  Native River’s got it all. He was in the four-miler last year and came out a few weeks later and won a Grade One around Aintree. That’s the constitution of these horses, they can take it, that’s why they are what they are. If you get a horse coughing, a weak one will cough for three weeks, Cue Card will cough once, Native River once, and that’s it, gone. That’s what they are, healthy and fit, and probably why they end up being as good as they are. He can handle any ground that comes up, he jumps and he stays, and we saw something last week [at Newbury] that we didn’t know he had. We don’t need to go on, six-out, and then hold on like in the Hennessy and Welsh National, let’s just ride him because he’s a bit faster than we think. He was beating a 154 horse [Le Mercurey] at Newbury but that’s a good horse. He’ll take a lot of beating.

Finian’s Oscar  I’m sure if I said he was going to the Supreme [over two miles], he’d shorten up. Quite a lot of Champion Hurdle winners have run in the Neptune in the past and gone back to the Champion Hurdle, you can’t go there thinking it will be slower horses. He’s a brother to [2012 Champion Chase winner] Finan’s Rainbow and he was a two-miler. It’s just that he came through the point-to-point ranks and you feel as though he’s a two and a half miler. He doesn’t stop and they tell me the last half of the [Neptune] is just as fast as the Supreme.

Alary He was better at Exeter [last time], but you never know with these French horses. He might be acclimatising. He looked as though he would be a three and a half miler in heavy ground, but I think he’s a two and a half miler. I saw him on the gallops this morning and he’s beautiful now. When he first came, he wasn’t as healthy as he could have been. I don’t think it was French bugs, I think he caught ours and that’s why he flattened out first time. I think he’s a live player. He’s a man of a horse, we jumped him this week and he never worried about a fall, he arched his back and landed 15 feet the other side. He’s a good horse.

Fox Norton He tried to give Altior 5lb [at Newbury this month], which was an impossible task anyway, but he ran a good second and didn’t jump very well. He came back a bit stiff behind and I think he was feeling that in the race. All in all, he’s a good horse, he’s fine now and [his former trainer] Neil Mulholland says he’ll like spring ground and a flat-out two miles. I was leaning towards the Ryanair, as he took the whole of the Arkle trip last year to get to third, so we’re leaving that option open a little bit. Douvan [hot favourite for the Champion Chase], he does look a machine, but you shouldn’t be afraid of one. It will be left to the five-day stage, I’d say.

Royal Vacation He started off on 127 at the beginning of the year and we were chuffed as nuts when he was going to be second to Might Bite [in the Kauto Star, which he won when Might Bite fell at the last]. Then he came out at Cheltenham over two and a half miles and won by 15 or 20 lengths. He’s done nothing wrong and Paddy [Brennan] was saying, you’ve got to go for the RSA and not the National Hunt Chase. What he’s got in his favour is we can run him right on the pace, knowing he would stay four miles, so he won’t have to sit in the bunch and get involved in all the jumping issues that will occur in an RSA. He can be really positive, which gives him a chance.

Theatre Guide He’s going for the race at Kempton on Saturday [BetBright Chase] that he won last year. When I entered five [in the Gold Cup], I thought there might only be 10 in the race, but there could be 15 now and we don’t know who’s going to run. If he wins well [on Saturday], I’m sure he’ll go there, he’s won at Cheltenham this year staying on, and horses with his rating have run big races in the Gold Cup before.

West Approach He’s in the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett, he’s second favourite there and you’d have thought a novice would go the novice route. But John and Heather [Snook, owners] have never been afraid of campaigning at the highest level and we know pretty well what those horses [in the Stayers’ Hurdle] are. In a novice, there could be some real crackers in that, so I don’t think one race is much harder than the other. If the favourite [Unowhatimeanharry] came out, I know we’d go to the Stayers’ Hurdle. It’s not been ruled out at all. The horse is improving and doesn’t have to find much to be a big player in the Stayers’ Hurdle. It’s 50-50, I’d say.

Sizing Codelco He finished behind Top Notch at level weights in a graduation chase earlier in the season. We ran him over too far a trip last time, we’re dropping back to two miles five and he’s a big strong stayer. He very nearly beat Top Notch, he’s a good strong horse and the Irish boys all thought he was one of the best handicappers. He’s going well at the moment and looks well in his coat, he’d have a nice chance [in the Plate].

Alan Potts’s handicappers:

Sizing Platinum (Grand Annual) Bally Longford (Ultima, Plate, Kim Muir) Sizing Tennessee (Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase) Mick Thonic (Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase, Grand Annual) We have stopped [running these] purposely since Christmas to go to Cheltenham, there’s six or eight of them rated in the 140s and 150s which we haven’t run, we just gave them a break. We want our best chances at Cheltenham, they’ll get in the race, they ran three times in the autumn and they’ll go there and be at their best.


The class of 2017 represents Henry’s De Bromhead’s strongest-ever squad for the Cheltenham Festival and he talked’s Kevin Blake through their prospects.

All Hell Let LooseHe had a bit of a setback last summer, but he’s good now and is entered in the two-and-a-half mile novices’ handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He got a mark of 137 when we asked for it and while he’s lightly raced over fences, I would only be hopeful rather than confident of him being fairly treated.”

Avenir D’une VieUnfortunately he had a little setback and won’t be ready in time for the Cheltenham Festival, but the hope would be to have him back in time for the Fairyhouse Easter Festival.”

Balko Des Flos “He’s in great form and is going to run in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. I was disappointed with him when he tried him over three miles at Naas and his two runs either side of that over two-mile five-furlongs were much better, so maybe he didn’t quite get home at Naas as he travelled well for a long way. He was only eight lengths or so behind Disko last time, so we’d be hopeful things will go right for him on the day and he can turn it around if he meets him again in the JLT.”

Champagne West “He’s in super form and he will go for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He put up a fantastic performance in the Thyestes last time and based on that I wouldn’t have any great stamina doubts for him in the Gold Cup. He has a good record at the track too which could only encourage you. Tactically, he’ll be ridden wherever he is happy. He’s just a lovely horse to have in the yard.”

Heron Heights “He’s entered in a few different races at Cheltenham including the two-and-a-half mile novices’ handicap chase, the Kim Muir, the Ultima Handicap Chase and the RSA Chase, so he’ll run in one of those. We didn’t have many options for his latest run, so he ended running over a trip that is a bit short for him and I thought he ran well in the circumstances.”

Identity Thief “He’s much better in the last few days and is pretty much 100% now. We are running out of time to get another run into him before Cheltenham, but there is a two-mile one-furlong novice chase at Leopardstown on March 5th that might work for him. We won’t make a decision on that until closer to the time.”

Marinero “He’s entered in the National Hunt Chase and the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and we haven’t made a decision yet on which one he’ll go for. I wouldn’t have any great preference, but he will run in one of them. His form looks good to me and the better the ground, the better he’ll run.”

Monalee “He’s in really good form. He’s entered in the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. There hasn’t been a decision made on which race he’ll go for. Death Duty gave him weight and a beating over two-and-a-half miles at Navan, so it might be best to avoid him, but the trip of the Albert Bartlett would probably suit our fella better than the trip of the Neptune. We’ll wait until we see what the ground is like before we make a decision, but he’s heading in that direction.”

Ordinary World “We freshened him up after his last run at Christmas and he’s in super form now. The plan is to run in the Arkle at Cheltenham. He jumps really well and is a real case of a horse that is just much better over fences than hurdles. He’s a real two-mile chaser and the better the ground, the better his chance.”

Paloma Blue “He’s a lovely young horse that won his bumper really well. He’s a real chasing type and we are happy to look after him this season. He won’t go to Cheltenham and will probably only have one more run this season, possibly in a winner’s bumper at the Punchestown Festival. He’ll go novice hurdling next season, but the sooner we can get him over a fence the better.”

Petit Mouchoir “I’m really happy with him and the plan is to run in the Champion Hurdle. He’s already had a fantastic season and hopefully it will continue over there. The original plan was to go chasing with him this season, but Michael suggested we stay over hurdles and it has proven to be a great idea!”

Some Plan “He is in super form and will go for the Arkle. He’s just a lovely horse that jumps deadly and bar his fall at Cheltenham he’s had a fantastic season. He obviously had a bit of good fortune in the Irish Arkle and who knows what would have happened if Royal Caviar had stood up? I think Some Plan would have stayed galloping to the line, but Royal Caviar looked to be travelling well, so who knows. Davy Russell tells me it was one of the fastest winning times in that race in many years and while the ground was obviously less testing than it often is, I still thought it was interesting.”

Special Tiara “He’s been a bit unlucky this season. He hated the ground on the two occasions he ran at Cheltenham and I probably wasn’t too clever running him on it last time. In between those runs he won at Kempton albeit in workmanlike style, but I’ve never thought Kempton was his ideal track. He’s in mighty form now though and if the ground comes up good, he’ll put up a bold show.”

Sub Lieutenant “He’s in mighty form and the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham has been the plan for him all along. He’s already had a great season and hopefully he’ll give a good account of himself. I really think he’s a better horse on better ground, so for his sake I hope it turns up that way.”

Three Stars “He could well run in the Arkle and he’s in really good form. He’s beaten Ball D’Arc twice, which looks alright now and while I was a bit disappointed with him last time, he’d been busy up until then and maybe just needed the freshen up that we’ve now given him. I also think he needs to be ridden aggressively and we didn’t do that on the day. Hopefully he can prove himself to be better than that.”


David Pipe ATR Cheltenham Stable Tour February 21 2017

Champers on Ice “He is in the RSA, the National Hunt Chase and will probably be entered in the Kim Muir. He will probably end up in the four-miler. He was a little disappointing last time at Cheltenham but they just ran him off his feet. Hopefully, four miles will play to his strengths and obviously he finished third in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last year and has got some good experience around Cheltenham over the fences. I am looking forward to it.”

Moon Racer “He is good form and he will be left in the Supreme and the Champion Hurdle at the five-day stage and then we will make a decision after that. His form has been boosted by Ballyandy’s win at Newbury and it was always the intention to give him a mid-season break. It took us longer to get him going than we thought it would and we had intended to give him another run but we haven’t got time for that and he will go straight there.”

Poker Play “He is in the Triumph and the Fred Winter and is probably more likely to go for the Fred Winter. The softer the better for him and he ran a decent race at Kempton when runner-up to Fidux on his debut for us and he stays well so Cheltenham should suit him.“

Starchitect “He is in the Arkle and the two and a half mile novices handicap chase and he will have entries in the Grand Annual too. Once again, we will decide nearer the time but he was a good hurdler and he has run well over fences so far this season and will appreciate better ground.”

Un Temps Pour Tout “He will either go for the Stayers’ Hurdle or race the race he won last year the Ultima Handicap Chase on the first day. He seems to come good in the Spring and he can be a little bit in and out but he has been running in all the top-class races.”

What a Moment “He will run in the four-miler or the Kim Muir depending on what he gets in. He would be an outsider but on his best form it would give him a squeak.”

Lucky 15 February 23rd

Thursday 6.00pm  Tad breezy out there today! Not that it bothered me, the entries for the Cheltenham handicaps were out at midday!! 961 entries over 10 races, weights next Thursday. Just can’t wait. I hope some of you followed the Staying Chase Ante Post blog I put up on the 16th Feb. We got Leg 1 last Saturday with Vieux Lion Rouge and the other two run this weekend with possibly Favourite’s chances!! Shotgun Paddy was put up at 10/1 and is currently an 8/1 market leader having today got the rain we were hoping for at Newcastle. The third and final leg is Double Shuffle in the Betbright Chase at Kempton and we said get on that 14/1 at PP and I know at least one of you did!! He is now as short as 5/1 at the top of the market, there are only 13 runners and we have got four places!! It was a 1432/1 treble, prayer mats out please.

Friday Lucky 15

Looks like we need to visit Mr William Hills!

Warwick 2.00                         GLOBAL STAGE                                   13/8 general    

Exeter 2.45                             GRACEFUL LEGEND                            5/1 WH 9/2 general

Exeter 3.50                             AUDACIOUS PLAN                             14/1 general    

Warwick 4.45                         MUCKLE ROE                                      11/2 WH 9/2 general               


and here’s why


Warwick 2.00                         GLOBAL STAGE I like the horse and the connections, Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan, but the price is a bit skinny but we’ll be happy to kick off with a winner. Global Stage has kept some serious company in his racing to date, indeed just ten lengths behind Finians Oscar at levels when they both made their hurdling debut. Coo Star Sivola will struggle to give him 7lbs and Monsieur Co has a big ask for a 4yo and interesting trainer Paul Nicholls puts up the red hot Stan Sheppard and claims 5lb.

Exeter 2.45                             GRACEFUL LEGEND    This young lady is in fine form having won three out of her last five and if there is one thing she loves is a scrap with the word “gamely” often appearing in her post race analysis! Obviously up in grade could make her vulnerable but the ground and trip are spot on and her weight is competitive. Three last time winners oppose to mean it’s no gimme but if she is beaten they will know they have been in a race!

Exeter 3.50                             AUDACIOUS PLAN A furlong shy of four miles round Exeter in February is going to take some getting but there are still at least half a dozen in here who would be quite happy to go out for another lap! The selection needs to get back to his form of eighteen months ago but the trip, grade and ground are all fine, Jonathon Moore takes off 3lbs and he’s back with Rebecca Curtis whose yard seems to have benefitted for a three week break. Crucially he’s run well from around this mark OR126 before. I think this is a cracking each way single at 14/1   ¼ 1,2,3,4.

Warwick 4.45                         MUCKLE ROE The form book suggests this one may have had a wind op last autumn as he went from being a weak finisher prone to late (tired) jumping errors to a horse who is seeing out three miles well! So I will take him to defy a 9lb rise for the Twiston-Davies clan as young Willy goes in pursuit of those chasing wins to get his ride in the Grand National.

Thursday Lucky 15

Frustrating when a meeting is called off but Doris couldn’t be avoided!

Huntingdon 2.00                    SIR ANTHONY BROWNE                    Non Runner  

Thurles 3.00                            MOULIN A VENT                                2nd 15/8F

Halved in price and I thought this was in the bag turning for home with the leader covered and Mr Walsh piling the coals on back in third BUT never underestimate Ruby and he got a tune out of Tin Soldier to outstay the selection.

Huntingdon 3.10                    ACTINPIECES                                      Non Runner  

Huntingdon 4.55                    BOAGRIUS                                          Non Runner  



Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Stable Tour February 22 2017, 16:22

Champion Hurdle

I’ll run three in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, Brain Power, Buveur D’Air and My Tent Or Yours and it’s just a question of where we’ll finish them off now. Nothing will run beforehand and there are various gallops planned. Because he didn’t run at Sandown I was toying with running Brain Power at Kempton on Saturday but decided against it. He worked well on Monday and Buveur D’Air did likewise on Tuesday. Brain Power cantered around Newbury after the Betfair Hurdle. My Tent Or Yours is in good shape, really good shape. He was second in the Champion last year and has been something of a forgotten horse. He wasn’t quite sparkling earlier in the season and will go to Kempton on Tuesday for a gallop. He’ll love the Champion. He wants a really fast-run race, which he hasn’t had it all year. We should have made the running in the Haydock race which turned into a silly affair. It’s so far so good with them, they’re all intended runners. Barry Geraghty hasn’t given me any indication what he’s going to ride, I haven’t spoken to him about it. I hope David Mullins will ride Brain Power. I’d imagine it’s between Buveur D’Air and Yanworth for Barry, or he could surprise you and ride Tent. I should think there’s a possibility Noel Fehily would ride Buveur D’Air if Barry didn’t. He rode him all last season and Barry virtually sat on him for the first time in his life at Sandown last time. The good thing is it isn’t a problem from my point of view. If Barry rides our horse, great, if he doesn’t I don’t think we have a problem. I think Brain Power has done everything right and looks really well, he’s been great, the one thing you could say is there is a ground situation here. Buveur D’Air would love it soft and Brain Power good. We all know on day one it’s going to be good to soft or softer. The softer the better for Buveur D’Air – that helps him and goes against Brain Power and My Tent Or Yours. If you take it strictly on what he did at Sandown, Buveur D’Air wouldn’t deserve to be favourite for a Champion Hurdle. He beat Rayvin Black and Irving who didn’t’ really perform there or at Wincanton the next time where they were beaten even further. We’ve just got to do our own thing though. I’ve always thought he was a Champion Hurdle horse even though he was very good over fences. The switch back wasn’t entirely down to what was happening with the Champion Hurdle. Yes Annie Power missing out made you think but I said to Barry before racing at Cheltehham that day that this horse needs to come back into the Champion whatever happens to Faugheen tomorrow. Half an hour later Faugheen was out of the Sunday race but I was adamant before that my horse had to come back into a Champion Hurdle. We’ve seen horses come through handicaps and look very good but it’s always a big gap. However, rated 163 Brain Power has nowhere else to go. He has a very high cruising speed, you need that, you have to be able to travel through the race, and I’d expect they’ll go a good gallop with The New One and Petit Mouchoir in the field.


Altior We’re a long way from another Sprinter Sacre but he’s creeping up the road. We took the same route as Sprinter did in the Game Spirit and now he’s got to come out and win the Arkle. If it happens and he doesn’t do something silly there will be comparisons with ratings and the like. You wouldn’t believe you could put away one as great as that and replace him with another. And this is a two miles horse and two miles only. It can’t have been the wrong thing to do [go over fences this season] as there are that many people trying to convince us to go in the Champion Chase. If he’s capable of taking on Douvan we must be thinking we’ve got something right. This horse could jump with Douvan. A lot of horses can’t because a) they aren’t fast enough and b) they can’t jump quick enough. So far that’s what he’s been able to do. After Sandown we said we’d stay down this road (novice chasing).

Beyond Conceit It’s between the Sky Bet Supreme and Neptune for him and if it came up very soft I’d definitely be keen to go to the Supreme. On good ground we might go over two-and-a-half. He pulled very hard over that trip at Ascot on Saturday and did well to win. It looked as though stamina won the day there but I wouldn’t be sure. Barry rode him the first day at Newbury and said he didn’t want any further. He’s an older horse and travels well and I’m thinking two miles but we don’t know.

Charli Parcs I don’t think he minds anything [ground-wise]. If he gets soft ground on Saturday at Kempton he’ll run because he has to and I don’t think it will worry him. I’d like to run him in the Triumph I must admit. He’s very smart, a proper four-year-old. He’s got to go and do it on Saturday. If you go into the Supreme you get allowances… we’ll have to see. JP McManus has got a lot of horses in a number of categories. He’s a lot of horses in the Supreme as well, I’ve got Consul De Thaix of JP’s that could easily come in there, then there’s Paul’s horse who was second in the Betfair, Movewiththetimes, and a number in Ireland as well. They’ll have to put the right horses in the right place and that’s probably not my call.

Consul Du Thaix He’s another who belongs to JP McManus and will come in somewhere. Where I’m not sure at this stage.

Daphne Du Clos We might even hit the bumper this year which would be very, very strange for me. She’s forward and mature for a four-year-old filly. The history books tell you that isn’t possible but that looks open this year. I know poor Willie (Mullins) has lost his best one and she looked very good the other day and she gets all the allowances – I think she’s got 10-4. I love bumpers but that as a race for young horses, if they’re not up to it they get such a brutally hard race and our bumper horses aren’t trained like that. They have a run and then they have a second run and they get put away for novice hurdles. Some guys probably have four of five trips to the racecourses and they’re well prepared for it. You come down that hill flat to the boards with young horses and they will get hard races. They’ve got to be very good and I think she’s different [to our usual bumper horses]. We were second in it with Trabolgan and he turned out to be a very good staying chaser.

Different Gravey We were going to go back over hurdles – he’s in the National Spirit at Fontwell on Sunday [and he had that entry] with a view to going back over hurdles including the Aintree Hurdle and missing Cheltenham. But, his jumping has come back the last 10 days. He’ll either run in the Pendil on Saturday with a view to running in the JLT or he’ll go to Fontwell and miss Cheltenham. I think the Pendil is the probability as his jumping has just come back, whereas three weeks ago he was just awful.

Domperignon Du Lys & Divin Bear The Fred Winter is the handicap I like this year. It’s normally not a race for us, you either have a Triumph horse or you don’t have anything, but these two fit the bill here. Between them I think it’s a race we have a very, very good chance in. They are slightly exposed, Divin Bear is rated 137 which is normally not where the winner comes from, Domperignon is 133 which is usually more realistic. They are both in good shape.

Josses Hill (and Vaniteux) He’s been excellent this year. He wasn’t that good at Kempton but he’s in good shape now. He goes for the Ryanair and some good ground would be nice. I think Un De Sceaux likes to get his toe in so good ground for that race please. Vaniteux is also in good form and goes for that race.

L’Ami Serge He might go for that race at Fontwell on Sunday [National Spirit Hurdle]. Or is he still in the Champion Chase? Just see who’s going to take on Douvan, look at the second and third prize money. That’s the thought with him at the moment. Left-handed over fences, he’s good round there. He did disappoint. I can excuse him Haydock but I don’t know what happened at Cheltenham the time before because he looked to have done everything right that day. As I said to Simon [Munir, owner] afterwards, this horse looked like a two miler…….attack, attack, attack.

Lough Derg Spirit He’s looked very good. He won a good trial at Musselburgh last time on good ground which would help him. He might just be an Aintree horse rather than Cheltenham but we’ll see, we could go either way.

Might Bite Might Bite goes into the RSA. It was horrible at Kempton but he had a nice run around Doncaster. He’s been very good. Someone said to me the other day ‘will you be happy with him on an undulating track as he’s only ever been around flat tracks?’ Well, there are plenty of horses that have gone to Cheltenham having only run on flat tracks. It’s not a worry. His jumping has been good. It would be nice for Might Bite not to have to make it. He must have a powerful engine. It was going to be a staggering performance [in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase].

Peace And Co The horse who is going to come back and who I might take to Kempton this week is Peace And Co and I might take him to Kempton this weekend. He is working extremely well and you could ride him in a head collar, all that lunacy has gone and I’m not saying you’re going to see another Lazarus but you might do. He’s working very well, he’s been working with all the boys over the last few weeks. He’s in the Imperial Cup, then he’s going to win the bonus in the County Hurdle and in between he’s going to chase round Douvan for second place prize money! He had a wind operation, he had pneumonia – that helped him a hell of a lot. I don’t know why but he’s just come back a completely different person. Everything before was 100 miles an hour as it was on the racecourse but now everything seems great.

River Wylde He runs in the Sky Bet Dovecote at Kempton on Saturday and could run in the Supreme. That’s a race you need the right horse for, if it’s a year too soon get out of it, it’s not where you want to be.

Top Notch He’s extraordinary because at the start of the season we said we’d give him a couple of runs in novice chases around the smaller tracks to give him confidence as he wouldn’t have the scope for chasing. Then we could bring him back over hurdles and maybe try him over three, see if he made a Stayers’ hurdler. He was a nowhere-to-go horse really. He was getting the hang of it in small-field novice chases and learning to jump and getting his confidence up. He grew and grew and grew and grew until we get to Sandown and he’s the best jumper there is in the Scilly Isles. He loved it. He loves soft ground. Two-and-a-half helps him too. He’ll have a tough task with Yorkhill and Whisper could be in the mix too.

Verdana Blue She looked very good yesterday (at Taunton). She will almost certainly turn up in the Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle. She looked very good.

Whisper Whisper I think goes for the JLT. He could move up to three, I want to talk to Davy Russell and Dai Walters about that. He stays three and it’s a possible. He just went for a bit of a wander in the park for a year or so, we’ve all done it. He got beaten at Exeter by something not spectacular but he’s put it together now and he gets on very well with Davy. He’s a great style of riding a horse and he just tells him to get on with it and I love it. It suits him down to the ground.


Lucky 15 February 22nd

Wednesday 6.30pm  Limini simply oozed class in putting Apples Jade away. Look forward to reading the post-race comments and observing the Ante Post fall out. If I was Rich Ricci, which I can assure you all I’m not, my first thoughts would be to put Limini in the Champion hurdle and run Vroum Vroum Mag in the Mares hurdle but then again I would run Douvan in the RyanAir and Un de Sceaux in a really sub-standard Champion Chase!

Paul Nicholls Cheltenham team after the Lucky 15 info!

Thursday Lucky 15

Lacking a few runners in the handicaps to be too adventurous!

Huntingdon 2.00                    SIR ANTHONY BROWNE                    7/4 BetFred                   

Thurles 3.00                            MOULIN A VENT                                14/1 Coral 7/2 general

Huntingdon 3.10                    ACTINPIECES                                      9/2 PP 4/1 general

Huntingdon 4.55                    BOAGRIUS                                          7/4 BetFred     

and here’s why

 Huntingdon 2.00                    SIR ANTHONY BROWNE I don’t normally go with penalised runners in novice hurdles but the three main contenders are all penalised and the rest are uninspiring. Trainer Alan King has always held Sir Anthony Browne in high regard and I think he has more scope than Crievehill, surely destined for handicaps then fences, and Glaring whose debut win could have been a flash in the pan.

Thurles 3.00                            MOULIN A VENT        Good Grade 3 2m 4f Novice hurdle on Soft to Heavy ground. Last time out Moulin a Vent was beaten just nine lengths by Death Duty and in receipt of a few pounds from his rivals I think he has the form for jockey Sean Flanagan to steer him home for trainer Noel Meade.

Huntingdon 3.10                    ACTINPIECES A mares Listed chase and I’m going for the “steady Eddy” here. Desert Queen is the class act but has a few ideas of her own, the Nicholls mare may be the best in time but Actinpieces jumps, travels and stays and could even be improving for Pam Sly.

Huntingdon 4.55                    BOAGRIUS The Million in Mind boys like their winners here and Boagrius was a little unfortunate last time with a couple of scruffy jumps at the last two and then the jockey dropping his whip! Gavin Sheehan can put things right and notch another winner for the upwardly mobile Warren Greatrex.

Wednesday Lucky 15

Doncaster 3.15                       SKIPTHECUDDLES                   Non Runner   4/1 general backed to 7/4!!

How frustrating is that!!                          

Doncaster 3.45                       COURTBYSURPRISE                5th 4/1

Halved in price but put his feet in the water and never got competitive hindered by poor fencing.

Ludlow 4.10                            THE GAME CHANGER            1st 4/1

Dropped out in last by jockey change, Tom Scudamore. Keen but no move until leaving back straight. Still green but led between last two flights and won decisively. Progressive hurdler but could be some chaser!!

Ludlow 5.20                            GULSHANIGANS                     2nd 7/2

Ran adequately but couldn’t cope with the Skelton’s favourite Theatrebar.


Here’s the Paul Nicholls guide to his Cheltenham team plus an Acapella Bourgeois update.

Arpege D’Alene                 He’s a bit frustrating. He won’t finish last in the four-miler – I know he got beat Saturday but it won’t make any difference to his chances. He missed the last two fences there and was a bit on his own; three miles at Ascot was a bit sharp for him and, watching again, he’ll definitely be better going left-handed. He really wants 30 runners and loads of cover. He’s going to go to Cheltenham and then to the Scottish National and both will suit him. Quirky is an understatement.

Bouvreuil                    I would like to run him but he’s had a few niggles. He’s not the easiest in the world to train but goes well fresh so there’s no point running him now. If he gets there in one piece he’s definitely with a chance. I also think he’d be awesome in the Topham so you could think we’ll wait for that. We’ll see.

Brio Conte The boys race would be the plan providing he gets in off his mark of 135. It’s a 0-145 but the way things are going now you might struggle. He was good at Doncaster last time and wants good ground. If he got in he’d have a chance.

Caid Du Berlais                       He’s in the BetBright at Kempton on Saturday and has quite a good weight if it doesn’t rain all week. He really wants good ground and could go there but if not will run in one of the handicaps at Cheltenham. He’s a winner waiting to happen and I think he wants three miles. Over two and a half they go too quick for him but he’s in everything.

Coillte Lass                           She’s done very well this season. She won won three novice hurdles then the last day, with a 7lb penalty was only beaten seven lengths by Vroum Vroum Mag. She wasn’t beaten far, ran really well, and she’ll run in the mares’ novices hurdle. She can’t do any more than she’s done. We haven’t had too many good mares but we’ve got a few this year and she’s one of them.

Diego Du Charmil              He won last year’s Fred Winter. He came first time out this year and won the four-year-old handicap at Chepstow, then came back a bit too quickly and the ground was too soft over Christmas. Won very nicely at Musselburgh but has gone up now to a mark of 150. He’s only got one entry, in the County Hurdle. He wants decent ground so he’s a possible to go there but the other race I have in mind for him is the Scottish Champion Hurdle. He’s going to be a really exciting chaser for us next season.

Dodging Bullets                                 Won the Champion Chase two seasons ago but has struggled since and is obviously not as good as he was. He ran ok the other day at Newbury and has dropped down to a mark of 151 which gives him half a chance and he’ll go to the Grand Annual which is a race that will suit him nicely. There’s no point running him in the Grade Ones at the moment but he’s come out of Newbury really well and the Grand Annual looks ideal and he’ll be competitive against a different grade of horse he’s been running against of late.

Dreamcatching                      He entered the equation for Cheltenham after winning at Wincanton on Saturday. He has an entry in the Fred Winter and a mark of 131. We’ve won the race for the last two seasons and back in 2015 our horse won off 131 and last year off 133 so he’s around the right mark. He won a bumper in France last summer and was third on his debut at Auteuil. We fancied him at Kempton over Christmas but he ran very free and didn’t get home. He wasn’t right at the time either, we hadn’t had him long and he wasn’t properly acclimatised. He was much better on Saturday where he bolted in and looked progressive.

El Bandit                               He has several entries but will run in the Pertemps Final. He’s been a really progressive horse who won four or five on the trot including the Persian War at Chepstow. He came back fresh and well the other day and won the qualifier at Musselburgh where we didn’t think he was really ready. He’s gone up four pounds for that and has to progress again but is the sort who’ll run really well in the final. He’ll be a very exciting chaser next season.

Le Prezien                            He’s in everything, pretty well – I took him out of the JLT but he’s in the Arkle, the Grand Annual and the two-mile-five handicap chase. If Altior wasn’t in the Arkle I’d be very keen to run him; he’s won at Cheltenham already over two miles and I’m sort of convinced two miles suits him better when they go a good gallop. He doesn’t look as well as some in his coat but he’s a good horse. I don’t think he ran his race at Sandown the other day. He’ll definitely run in something at Cheltenham – hopefully one of the handicaps.

Lifeboat Mona                   She’s only been beaten once over hurdles and has been very progressive. 20/1 is a big price for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, I’m not saying she’ll beat the big ones but she’s done everything we’ve asked of her so far and is a good mare.

Movewiththetimes    A really smart horse who we like and he’s going to be a proper chaser next season. He’s done very well this year and was only just beaten the other day in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. To be honest with you, he ran very green from the back of the last, probably the first time he’s ever been asked a question. We’re thrilled with him. He’s got several entries at Cheltenham – the Supreme Novices’, County Hurdle, all the handicaps in fact. He went up 10lb for winning the other day which he was bound to, so we’ll have to look and see what race is best for him. He ran very well behind Moon Racer and Ballyandy at Cheltenham in November in what was a muddle of a race, which would’ve gone against us, and he got into more trouble than you could ever imagine possible. On that form he’d have a right chance if he ran in the Supreme – a fast-run race on slightly better ground will suit him and I think he’s a really smart horse.

Old Guard                            Old Guard had a good time at Cheltenham last year – he likes the place, always runs well there. Obviously he went chasing, fell at the first at Newton Abbot, jumped terrible when he won at Exeter – so we’ve just abandoned that for now. He’s run some really good races but has paid for it, being up the handicap a little bit. He ran well behind Modus in the Lanzarote off top weight, staying on really strongly over 2m5f, so we thought the Coral Cup would be a great race to run him in. Hopefully he won’t be top weight and is off to the Coral Cup unless Andy (Stewart, part owner) persuades me to run him in the World (Stayers’) Hurdle. Andy loves having runners in the good races but to be honest with you, unless the ground was fast he’d be certain to run in the Coral Cup. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him this season.

Pacha Du Polder                                He runs in the Foxhunters and Bryony Frost rides him. He won well at Bangor the other day and on decent ground will run well again. He’s going to be fresh this year.

Politologue                          This is one of our big hopes. He holds a couple of entries but I’ve taken him out of the Arkle and he does run in the JLT. He’s really progressive, three from four over fences this year, and just had a canter around Kempton last week having had a hard enough race at Haydock before that which was a very good run. He’s rated close to 150 which is a smart mark for a novice over fences. He ran a little free at Haydock and has always been a bit buzzy in the preliminaries, which is the complete opposite to what he’s like at home. We put a hood on him the last day at Kempton and he was very relaxed, Sam Twiston-Davies was thrilled with him, and the one thing with him is he’s a grand jumper. The ground won’t worry him much and Cheltenham has been his aim all season. He’s a really nice horse for next year, too.

Romain De Senam            This is an interesting horse. He has two entries – the Grand Annual and the Novices’ Handicap Chase. He’s almost certain to run in the latter. He was beaten a short-head in the Fred Winter last season, that day he stayed on strongly and he obviously wants two and a half miles over fences. He won well at Leicester and I ran him a bit quickly over two miles after that, which was a bit sharp for him. He’s been running in small-field novice chases, he wants a real fast-run race where he can use his jumping and stay on into the race. He’s on the right mark to be winning and he’s crying out for two and a half in a fast-run race.

Saphir Du Rheu                 Something of a frustrating horse but came good at Kelso last week, where he bolted up as he should have done. He jumped really well there and is just starting to get his act together a little bit. When he won a Grade One at Aintree we thought he was going to be a superstar over fences but he just lost his way a little. His last few runs have been good. He jumped really well at Cheltenham and stayed on strongly over a trip that was too short for him the time before. He’s a little in no man’s land as he has a high mark and I’ve entered him in the Ultima Handicap Chase on the first day but he’s almost certain to run in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. Andy Stewart is dead keen to run there and it is hard to argue he’s a certainty in a handicap of 11st 12lb. On all known form he’s not going to trouble the main ones but he’s the sort of horse who’ll run a tidy race and finish fifth or sixth. He has plenty of ability and we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He’s in at Aintree after Cheltenham but that may come too soon and we’ll wait another year but there is a really decent race in this horse somewhere and at long last he’s getting his act together.

Zarkandar                            He won the Rendlesham on Saturday, won well, jumped well. He’s been a great horse – he won the Triumph Hurdle six years ago and runs in all these Grade Ones. He had a leg problem 18 months ago after he won in France, would’ve won at Aintree in November, then went a bit flat. I recauterized his palate; sometimes these older horses just need the palate fine-tuned again and bingo, he was right back to his best. It wasn’t the greatest race in the world but he won well and Harry (Cobden) said he had plenty left in the tank. He’s going to run in the World (Stayers’) Hurdle as long as the ground is ok. Two years ago he was third when he made a horrific mistake at the second last. He’s back in form and I’m sure he’ll run a really good race.

*********************************************** Soft ground key to Acapella February 22 2017, 10:04

The Sandra Hughes-trained seven-year-old produced a brilliant front-running display to land the Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan last Sunday, coming home with 32 lengths in hand. While some have suggested the Network gelding may have been given a little too much rope by his rivals, the Irish handicapper was impressed enough to raise his mark by 15lb to 158, making him the highest-rated horse in the RSA Chase on March 15. “We know the ground is the key to him. I think he’d make it hard for any horse running against him in that ground. I’m training him for Cheltenham and I might even travel him, but he won’t run unless the ground is soft. Going to Cheltenham you need to have every box ticked. We’re not interested in going there just to have a runner and this horse is too good to risk. We have options. Punchestown could come up a bit softer this year with it being a bit earlier, so we’ll see how we go.”

Bumper crop?

Wednesday February 22nd 1pm

Don’t quite know where this article is going to go but the idea is to have a look at the bumper at Doncaster 4.55 today which should give an insight to where we stand with the English side of things using collateral form. Then we will have a look at the current market leaders for the Cheltenham bumper, mainly Irish, mainly Mullins! Then a round-up of Irish bumper form and hopefully we could end up with a bet for the Festival and a dozen or so to go in the long term tracker?

Weds. Feb 21st Doncaster 4.55 Going: Good

CLAIMANTAKINFORGAN (Nicky Henderson) sent off 3/1F for the hot Listed bumper at Ascot when he finished sixth behind Western Ryder and Imperial Eloquence, who probably represent the best of tested English bumper form this season.

Western Ryder (Warren Greatrex) won on debut, was beaten by Fergal O’Brien’s Infinite Sun under a penalty, won at Ascot and then most recently was unable to give 21lbs to Nicky Henderson’s 4yo mare Daphne du Clos in a Listed bumper at Newbury. The vibes are that she is more likely to go to Aintree for the mare’s bumper there but perhaps we will know a bit more after Henderson’s Media day today.

Imperial Eloquence (Fergal O’Brien) had finished third in the Cheltenham November Listed bumper behind Poetic Rhythm and Ben Pauling’s Boreham Bill. Poetic Rhythm is another of Fergal O’Brien’s, a trainer with a very strong bumper squad this season. He has had 11 bumper winners from 46 runners. This seems to be the one Cheltenham bound.

The form of the Listed bumpers hasn’t been seriously franked this season but a win for Claimantakinforgan would give them a boost.

MONTYS AWARD (Charlie Longsdon) A winner of a Good ground bumper at Worcester back in October with strong market support, 10’s to 6’s, knew his job and won “comfortably” by four lengths. The fourth GETAWAY WHISKEY (Dan Skelton) has won since and was due to re-oppose but is a non-runner. The fifth, eighth and ninth have all won since suggesting it was an above average race although today will tell us more.

LEGAL OK (Stuart Edmunds) This is the type of horse who makes this division so trappy. Not seen since November when winning an Irish PtP by a distance, bred to win over 10F on the Flat and in the hands of an emerging trainer.

BLACK OP (Tom George) Has been in many notebooks since winning his Irish PtP back in March 2016 and then underlined when Roger Brookhouse forked out £210K for him at auction. There are a few like him entered up in the next few days, unraced under rules, cost a few quid, one win now and a shot at the festival!

Looking at the short term I think I have to back MONTYS AWARD today, currently 4/1 best with WH.

In the long term I am not impressed with the UK Bumper “form” but wouldn’t be surprised if there is a Cue Card lurking, one run, one win at a minor track and ready to burst on to the scene! Likely candidates are Cause Toujours (Dan Skelton), Carlos du Fruitier (Ben Pauling), If the Cap Fits (Harry Fry) and maybe the twice raced Ravenhill Road (Brian Ellison).

I am going to post this now at 1pm then update later on today when I’ve had a good look at the Irish contenders who as I see it at the moment have the stronger hand.

5pm If you are talking Irish bumpers you have to start at Closutton with Willie Mullins as his entries will make the market but he hasn’t won the race since 2013 and that was with Briar Hill his outsider of three at 25/1 despite Ruby Walsh riding it! When he won it the year before with Champagne Fever at 16/1, Ruby was on Pique Sous at 12/1! So the market isn’t too clever at working out the Mullins team! In the last five years the Mullins targets have moved up a notch or three and this race isn’t the focus it once was. However in 2017 he dominates the market.

Carter McKay Current favourite having won both his bumpers to date. He is an interesting horse as he is owned by Pearl Bloodstock aka Sheikh Al Thani and Qatar Racing and he put up a generous cash bonus to any member of his bloodstock team who could buy him a winner at the Cheltenham Festival and David Redvers, the teams head honcho, laid out a casual £160K for this grey Irish PtP winner!!

On debut he travelled well and outstayed Bacmaj who has won since. Then he stepped up to 2m4f in “a winner of one” bumper and in a field of just four Patrick Mullins set the easy fractions and comfortably saw off the hampered West Coast Time.

Mullins junior said: “I was really looking forward to riding Carter McKay at Christmas and I thought he would win easier than he did in Leopardstown, but the horse that he beat (Bakmaj) came out and won very easily next time. It looked like he had improved going into the race at Naas. It was a very slowly run race and it turned into a sprint, which it can sometimes do. It is a bit hard to tell the form of the race as I don’t think Joseph O’Brien’s horse (West Coast Time) ran to the best of his ability. Although he did it very impressively and easily, I would have slight question marks over it. He will go straight to Cheltenham now, but he is a horse for the future. It is nice to have a good horse for Sheikh Fahad. Hopefully he is excited about the prospect of having a Cheltenham favourite.”

Clearly the horse has an engine and looks a staying type but I would rather back him for 2018 2m 5f Neptune hurdle than this years 2m Cheltenham bumper on Good to Soft ground.

Ballyward In all the interviews I’ve heard or read it is quite clear owner Graham Wylie is keen on this one. This 5yo son of Flemensfirth won his only bumper over 2m 4f beating eight rivals at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting. He may have beaten trees, nothing has franked the form, but he tanked through the race and didn’t go the front until 300yds out and then beat the trees sixteen lengths. I like him.

Next Destination Willie trains this son of rising NH sire Dubai Destination for Malcolm Denmark (black and white check, yellow cap). Next Destination won his Irish PtP and his sole bumper, a nine runner affair at Fairyhouse on New Years Day. Long, scopey type that just about made every yard, green but showed a decent turn of foot to beat Derrinross.

Come to Me This is the one for me. Prominent throughout, travelled sweetly, then two furlongs out went whoosh! Left some decent types behind including useful yardstick Burren Life. “He’s a half-brother to Sweet My Lord and that’s why we bought him,” said Mullins. “I look forward to running him in a winner’s bumper in the New Year. I’m happy with that, and our bumper horses seem to be decent enough.”

What else has Ireland got? Well I like two.

Red Jack Trained by Noel Meade he was impressive in beating previous winner Debuchet from the Mullins yard at Naas at the beginning of January. Just a 4yo son of Mahler I think they will keep him for Punchestown.

Dr Wallace 6yo son of Flemensfirth who hasn’t been seen since beating Noel Meade’s Minella Fair, a winner since, in his only race to date at Navan. The post-race report makes interesting reading and winning jockey Patrick Mullins, nephew of the trainer Margaret Mullins has mentioned this horse favourably since.

Alan Magee “Dr Wallace was all the rage for the REA T & J Gavigan Estate Agents Flat Race at Navan and duly justified the confidence under Patrick Mullins. The well-bred Flemensfirth gelding was available at 11/4 this morning, and attracted further support on track from 6/4 into 9/10. The odds-on shot travelled smoothly in the straight to challenge the front-running Minella Fair, and Mullins eventually said go just over a furlong out. Dr Wallace was driven out inside the final furlong and kept on well to score by three and three quarter lengths, with Ken’s Well a further eight lengths away in third. Winning trainer Mags Mullins said, “I’m delighted, and I think he is nice. He’s a big baby and is going to improve. He’s going to be very good I think. Paddy gave him a lovely ride. He was a little bit babyish when he hit the front. He’s a full-brother to Backspin who was a really good horse. Peter Magnier is in on him with me. Peter is great, he’s a big support to the yard, and I’m delighted for him. We’ll give him a chance and I wouldn’t think we’ll come back at Christmas. I’m not really sure where we’ll go and we’ll see how he is. He just might be one for Cheltenham, for the bumper. There are a couple of lovely bumpers here without even crossing the water and we could give him a chance for the year. He jumps really well but he won’t do any of that until next year. I’m delighted with him.”

Lucky 15 February 21st

Tuesday 6.30pm

Racing Post  12.40pm Colin Tizzard said: “Thistlecrack is out. He had heat in his leg last night. The vet scanned him this morning and it’s a slight tendon tear.” Dreadful news and I totally agree with Kevin Blake, ATR columnist, who tweeted “ Thistlecrack’s connections didn’t deserve that. Hopefully this doesn’t put others off campaigning their stars with such admirable boldness.” All of us who have played Ante Post are in for a nervous three weeks. Thank God for SkyBet Non Runner No Bet!!

Before I get on to yesterday’s winning Lucky 15, a heads up for tomorrow (Wednesday) there are two races of real interest. Apples Jade takes on Limini over 2m 4f at Punchestown in what is a serious trial for the Cheltenham Mares hurdle with Vroum Vroum Mag an interesting spectator! Then the bumper that closes the Doncaster card is absolutely top drawer, so much so that I will do an update for midday tomorrow (Wednesday) featuring that race and expanding to where we are re this seasons Bumpers here and in Ireland.

So on Tuesday we made a few quid with two winners, an 11/2 second and a 20/1 third beaten 1½L & ¾L!! The £15 staked (£1 unit) returned £29.25 and the sharks that took last night’s prices should make an extra fiver. If anyone went half stake each way, not my personal style, it paid just shy of £100 at SP! Well done me!

Tuesday Lucky 15

Taunton 2.50                          MASTER BURBRIDGE             1st 7/2             (4/1 general)

Fehily masterclass. Tucked away until two out, produced to lead at last and firmly pushed his mount clear. Not sure the horse is much better than this grade.                         

Taunton 3.50                          GOLD MOUNTAIN                  3rd 20/1           (10/1 Ladbrokes 9/1 general)

Sticky at his fences early on held onto in rear but warmed to the task and from twenty lengths back had a squeak going to the last. Promising West Country 3m+ handicapper on Good ground.

Wetherby 4.00                       MILAN EXPRESS                     2nd 11/2           (5/1 general)

Couldn’t cope with the well in winner but after being caught out for pace three out, kept on best of the rest. Further signs of a back to life Kim Bailey Yard.

Taunton 4.20                          TOMMY SILVER                      1st 7/2             (10/3 PP and WH as low as 9/4 with Coral!!)

Always in the box seat, quickened at the top of the home straight, sealed it with a better leap at the last. Hurdled really well. County hurdle at the Festival?         


Wednesday Lucky 15

Doncaster 3.15                       SKIPTHECUDDLES                   4/1 general                   

Doncaster 3.45                       COURTBYSURPRISE                15/2 PP 13/2general

Ludlow 4.10                            THE GAME CHANGER            9/2 WH 4/1 general

Ludlow 5.20                            GULSHANIGANS                     9/2 general     


and here’s why


Doncaster 3.15                       SKIPTHECUDDLES The combination of trainer and BHA solicitor Graeme McPherson and his stable jockey Kielan Woods are in a fine vein of form especially here at Doncaster, 4 from 28 in the last two seasons. This 6yo son of Westerner has improved as he has stepped up in trip finishing second to Keeper Hill (won Listed, Sidney Banks) and then winning at Wetherby over 2m5f looking better the further they went and this three miles on good ground should be ideal. I rest my case, M’Lud!

Doncaster 3.45                       COURTBYSURPRISE    Just had to play in this 3m Veterans chase. It’s Doncaster, it’s good ground, it’s flat but it still three miles! Too far for Ericht, Astracad and Seventh Sky, not far enough for Saint Are? Courtbysurprise has tumbled down the weights in the last eighteen months and races off just 10st 6lbs in conditions that could suit. There was money for him here on Town Moor over two furlongs further just before Christmas and he only got caught between the last two fences and he’s down another 3lb! I know, Daryl Jacob rides.

Ludlow 4.10                            THE GAME CHANGER This looks to be a progressive horse and an opening mark of OR122 could seriously underestimate his talent. Philip Hobbs trains for the lucky Rooneys , Richard Johnson , champion jockey rides. Powerful connections and TGC won “easily” at Bangor last time and should see off the talented 4yo Dino Velvet who has form with some top notch juveniles but only gets 5lbs here. The prize can go back to Bilbrook. TGC could be an Aintree type.

Ludlow 5.20                            GULSHANIGANS There look to be a large number of bridesmaids in this 2m5f C4 handicap hurdle, loads of places but not many winners. The selection seems to be going the right way, second last time when just failing to stay 3m. The yard continues to bang out the winners and youngest son Willy gets the leg up here. He needs about ten winners in the next five weeks to be eligible to ride in the Grand National. Some incentive. Remember his ballsy ride to win the Foxhunters at Aintree when still a teenager!


Light reading for Cheltenham fix of the day!

Monday 20 February 2017 AtTheRaces News Superb Story has been ruled out of the Stan James Champion Hurdle with a tendon problem. The six-year-old had booked his ticket for the Cheltenham Festival feature on March 14 with victory in a competitive handicap hurdle at Musselburgh in January in what has been his only start this winter.

Trainer Dan Skelton had been eager to have a crack at Grade One company with last year’s County Hurdle hero, but Superb Story will now be sidelined until next season.

Skelton tweeted: “Superb Story will not be running at Cheltenham. He’s got a small lesion in a tendon and will need time off. Possibly back in December.”

Skelton added: “In other Champion Hurdle news, Ch’tibello will have a soft palate cautery as we felt he didn’t get home as well as expected at the weekend. He’s 50-50 for Cheltenham and if (he) swerves it, (he) will go straight to Punchestown. Didn’t make a noise at Wincanton but we had a look.”    


Rich Ricci’s Cheltenham Countdown Tuesday, 21 Feb 2017 13:48 BetBright Blog

“Willie and I will have a get-together one of these days and try and finalise where we’re going to go with different horses. We’ve been very fortunate over the last few years and in most cases the choices were self-evident; whereas this year, with a reduced team, it will be much about finding the right race for the right horse. That might be frustrating for people who would love to know now where this horse runs and that horse goes, but we have to be patient and make the right call. Last year we had a very good strike rate and most of our horses ran into the money. This year’s team isn’t nearly as big – we’ll probably have something in the region of a dozen runners – and we’ll only bring the horses we think can be competitive.

The one horse that I’m hoping will slip nicely under the radar is Djakadam in the Gold Cup. The race looks a bit different today after that terrible news about Thistlecrack earlier but I still think that Colin Tizzard has a wonderful chance of winning the race with Native River and Cue Card. Colin has done such a brilliant job – not just in preparing his horses but also in dealing with connections of those horses and the media. I have lots of time for him. But this year, as opposed to last year, we’ve had a clean run with Djakadam. We know he gets the trip and he gets around Cheltenham very well.

We have a nice midweek distraction tomorrow at Punchestown when Limini makes her return in the Quevega Hurdle. She’s in good form and is a much stronger mare this season but it will be a tough gig tomorrow because she’s running over a new trip – 2m4f – and takes on a really good mare in Apple’s Jade. Our girl will need the run, for sure, and will come on for it, so it’s not so important that we win or lose tomorrow the main thing is we run well. How we define that, I don’t know, I suppose it depends on how Apple’s Jade runs! Limini is another in that category where she could end up in a couple of races at Cheltenham: she is favourite with some bookmakers for the County Hurdle and has options like the Mares Hurdle on the Tuesday too. Tomorrow – and that new trip – will hopefully tell us plenty and point us in the right direction.

In the lull of these few weeks before Cheltenham something has to fill the void I suppose, and last week it was handicaps and handicappers’ interpretations! Obviously Michael [O’Leary] was very unhappy with the weights handed to his horses for Aintree. I understand Michael’s point but I don’t have a dog in the fight. That will change in the next week or so as the handicap entries are finalised for Cheltenham and we’ll see what happens with the latest marks for our horses when they are published.

Our approach has always been the same. We campaign our horses a lot like Michael and Eddie do: they all start off in the novice and open races and eventually find their level. It often means we have a lot of horses betwixt and between, but that’s just the way it goes. Sometimes if we have a well-handicapped horse it will happen on the back bad run in a good race. If our horses get a mark we think is fair for Cheltenham, we will run; if not they stay at home.

Max Dynamite could be the exception because you’d imagine that he remains a horse well-handicapped over hurdles. As I said last week, he faces a race to be ready for Cheltenham but we haven’t put a line through him yet! Koshari hasn’t run since November but is the type of horse I’d like to think would run well in one of the handicaps and what about Arbre De Vie? Although still a maiden he had his form franked by Acapella Bourgeois at the weekend and he could be one for the handicaps off his current mark or even a horse that might be suited by taking in the four-miler on the Tuesday of the festival.

Elsewhere all of our novices are fine and will keep their entries at the next forfeit stage. That includes the long-forgotten Senewalk, who is back in training after getting his wind done. He will be a much better horse on better ground and we still retain loads of faith in him, but the reality is he is a maiden over hurdles, has only had the one run, and will probably not make Cheltenham at this stage.”


October 2016’s French National Hunt Recruits to Ireland/UK

Dandy Mag A 4-year old gelding who has now moved from France to Willie Mullins.. Dandy Mag is a half-brother to the star Willie Mullins mare Vroum Vroum Mag. The son of Special Kaldoun ran twice in France, both of which were AQPS flat races where he finished runner up on both occasions. On debut, the son of Special Kaldoun travelled very nicely in the race, but as expected with a horse making his debut, he was very green off the bridle which most likely prevented him from winning, he eventually got his act together in the last furlong and finished second. Dandy Mag once again finished second in his last French race, this time the greenness off the bridle was not in evidence, but in a close battle for the winning position, Dandy Mag’s adversary just got the better of him. The manner in which Dandy Mag only started to get going towards the finish line suggests he’ll love a step up in trip from his 12 furlong AQPS flat races. If Dandy Mag is seen this season he’ll be campaigned in the juvenile hurdling division, however it’s likelier he won’t be seen until next season where the son of Special Kaldoun can have a proper novice hurdling season. 2m 4f or above could be Dandy Mag’s ideal distance.

Domperignon Du Lys A 4-year-old gelding who has now moved from France to England to the trainer Nicky Henderson, Domperignon Du Lys is owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. The son of Great Pretender ran just once in France, which was an AQPS flat race at Les Sables in August over 1m 5f. Domperignon Du Lys won this race on his debut, the result was all the more impressive as the gelding badly missed the start at the stalls which gave his other rivals a head start. In the final few furlongs of the race, Domperignon Du Lys stayed on very strongly and in a bunched finish with three other rivals in contention of winning the race, the new Nicky Henderson recruit showed a great attitude to battle and get first past the post. The form from this race is working out nicely, the runner up Dis Donc has won his next two AQPS flat races. The 3rd in this race Drive Again has won since and also been placed in a Group 2 AQPS flat race, the 4th in the race Dustin Des Mottes won next time out on his hurdling debut, the 5th and 6th both also won next out in their AQPS flat races too. It’s likely that Domperignon Du Lys will be seen this season and if so, he will be racing in the juvenile hurdling division. Nicky Henderson and the owners usually have a great success together with juvenile hurdlers, bearing that in mind and the manner of his AQPS flat race, Domperignon Du Lys could be an exciting juvenile hurdler to look out for this season.

Dreamcatching A 4-year-old gelding who has moved from France to the UK Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, Dreamcatching is owned by Paul Vogt and Ian Fogg. The son of Al Namix ran three times in France, Dreamcatching’s first two runs were in AQPS flat races where he won on debut by 4 lengths and then finished last out of eight runners in a Group 3 AQPS flat race next time out. Dreamcatching then made his hurdling debut at Auteuil in which he finished 3rd. This was the same race in which the above aforementioned horse Dame De Compagnie came 2nd in, the filly and Duca De Thaix were quite a way ahead of Dreamcatching who didn’t look to quite have the speed compared to the 1st and 2nd when they took it up another gear, however Dreamcatching was staying on strongly. This suggests he may appreciate a step up in trip from a race which was over 2-miles. Paul Nicholls has a tendency to run his French juveniles fairly quickly, so there’s a good chance Dreamcatching will be seen this season and if so, he’ll be competing in the juvenile hurdling division.

November 2016’s French National Hunt Recruits to Ireland/UK

Charli Parcs A 4-year-old gelding who has now moved from France to England, Charli Parcs was purchased at the November Arqana sale for €250,000 by Hubert Barbe on behalf of J.P. McManus. The son of Anabaa Blue ran just the once in France, this was a hurdle race at Enghien for 3-year-old’s making their hurdling debuts and was ran over an extended 2-mile trip. Charli Parcs won this race at Enghien on his debut and did so in a very nice manner. For the majority of the race Charli Parcs was held back in the field and ridden towards the tail end of the pack, the horses at the front looked to have stolen a march on Charli Parcs in the last part of the race, but once Charli Parcs’ jockey Mathieu Carroux asked the son of Anabaa Blue for more, he duly obliged and caught up with the leaders very quickly. After the last flight, due to the very long run-in at Enghien and many horses in with a chance of winning the race, it turned into a sprint finish, Charli Parcs highlighted his speed as he gradually wore down his rivals and ended up winning fairly comfortably by a length. The race received a nice form boost from the runner up Poker Play, he has since won in a very impressive manner three weeks later at Enghien. Charli Parcs was very good in the jumping department on his debut, he did it with confidence and produced an excellent jump at the last when it mattered most, his jumping could be a valuable asset for Charli Parcs this season and beyond. In addition to his jumping, it was very eye-catching in regards to manner in which Charli Parcs quickened up when asked to get closer to the leaders in the race by his jockey, his jumping coupled with his speed makes Charli Parcs a potentially very exciting prospect. With Charli Parcs already a winner over hurdles and therefore only a novice this season, it’s likely he will be seen this season over these shores, most likely in the juvenile hurdling division. The concern would be that he has only moved to England very recently, so may be rushed too early without acclimatising to his new surroundings properly. If he can settle into new surroundings quickly and show an ability to progress from his debut, Charli Parcs could be a very good acquisition for J.P McManus for this season and beyond.

Lucky 15 February 20th

Monday 6.00pm Good sporting weekend though I am at a loss to explain how Acapella Bourgeois was allowed to win by 32 lengths and how Norwich lost at Burton Albion!! Really enjoyed the win of The Worlds End as that’s just the type of horse I specialise in, novices on the up with handicap marks underestimating their talent. Hopefully we’ve got two or three up our sleeve for the upcoming Festivals.

Talking of Cheltenham, I will blog my final musings next Monday, just want to see the Kempton meeting and a couple of Irish races, then no Cheltenham blogs until March 13th. Will monitor the markets and definite non-runners but ignore the Preview circuit and it’s rumours, smoke and mirrors etc. Just about know what I want to back now but just need to know the ground and which race they will actually be lined up in. With PP on the High Street and SkyBet on line Non Runner No Bet you can throw a few left field bets out. Recently I’ve done Douvan for the RyanAir and Un de Sceaux for the Champion Chase. Today I backed Death Duty for the Neptune. Think Good ground and you get Finians Oscar in the Neptune and no Neon Wolf or American in the RSA. Soft ground and you get Finians Oscar in the Supreme and Neon Wolf in the Neptune! Get a head start with NRNB!!

 Tuesday Lucky 15

Taunton 2.50                          MASTER BURBRIDGE             4/1 general                   

Taunton 3.50                          GOLD MOUNTAIN                  10/1 Ladbrokes 9/1 general

Wetherby 4.00                       MILAN EXPRESS                     5/1 general

Taunton 4.20                          TOMMY SILVER                      10/3 PP and WH as low as 9/4 with Coral!!      

and here’s why

Taunton 2.50                          MASTER BURBRIDGE Certainly wouldn’t be a top notcher in the Harry Fry yard but showed enough last time to suggest he could take a race such as this. Two reasons for expecting further improvement, this is only his seventh go at hurdling and the first time since his debut he has been ridden by stable jockey Noel Fehily and he is in my opinion as good as it gets!

Taunton 3.50                          GOLD MOUNTAIN This is probably a pretty quick way to poverty but I’m going to put up a horse making his chasing debut in a handicap! This 7yo son of Gold Well (should enjoy the Good ground) was third in an Irish PtP then progressive in three novice hurdles culminating in a second to Festival bound High Secret. He gets a mark of OR110 and connections have ignored handicap hurdles and sent him chasing off what is a hurdling mark. Alexandra Dunn knows the time of day and a competent Adam Wedge retains the ride. Hard hats on and buckle up, could be bumpy!!

Wetherby 4.00                       MILAN EXPRESS This young lady was a winning Irish point to pointer, has kept decent company in her three novice runs without screaming winner but her three main market rivals are a nine raced maiden and two poor heavy ground winners running under a penalty! Kim Bailey’s yard are back in business and stable jockey David Bass travels north for the ride and Milan Express off a mark of just OR104 can take this en route to a fruitful chasing career.

Taunton 4.20                          TOMMY SILVER The key to this horse is the ground, it must be good or better. Winter ground has seen his mark drop 5lbs to OR134 and with the in-form Stan Sheppard (Last 14 days, 4 winners from 9 rides!!) taking off another 5lbs he’s chucked in here. He was seventh in last year’s Triumph and if he wants to guarantee taking part in this years Festival he’ll have to go damn close to winning this!

Saturday Lucky 15

A reasonable Saturday with a couple of decent winners on the ticket. £1 unit (£15 staked) returned £46.50 at SP which was as big as they ever were. Particular satisfaction in spotting The Worlds End who may not have been on everyone’s radar!

 Ascot 2.25                              VIRAK                                      5th 6/1

Never competitive and can only presume he is firmly in the grip of the handicapper! Currently on OR147, down 12lbs in the last twelve months, and his last winning mark was OR144. Revisiting his form maybe he saves his best runs for Haydock? Aintree and Newbury could therefore be possibilities, flat, left handed, stiff jumping test.     

Ascot 3.00                               TEMPLEROSS                          3rd 4/1

Bit surprised to see him attempt to set all the fractions, understand they wanted to make it a stamina test not a sprint. Ran on when headed, perhaps 2m 5f is his best trip.

Haydock 3.15                         VIEUX LION ROUGE                1st 8/1

Excellent. Jumped, travelled and outstayed Blaklion. Has to be a player in the Grand National if he genuinely gets the extra mile!?

Haydock 3.50                         THE WORLDS END                 1st 11/4

Did exactly what it said in the blog! Looks like they are going to Cheltenham for the Alfred Bartlett. Has all the attributes to make a top class three mile chaser. Has to be in your tracker for the next three years!          

News from the worldwide-netty thing! Feb 18th Tombstone, who had hit the lead after the fourth last, stayed on well and had things in control as Jezki blundered at the last. Gordon Elliott’s charge, who was slightly untidy himself at the final flight, kept on strongly to record a four-length success at odds of 9/4.  “I felt he’d improved a lot from Navan, and we were giving Jezki weight the last day. It was a good performance,” said Elliott. “He was going to go chasing but he had a few setbacks. He’ll go over fences next year. He could step up to two and a half miles, and the race at Aintree might be a possibility. The plan was to let him roll off the back straight and if he was good enough he was good enough.”

Cooper told At The Races afterwards:- “It’s great to get it. We always thought he was a fair horse and I was looking forward to him going chasing this year but next year is another year and he did it very well. We were coming in off a break as well last time. I watched the race in Navan back about ten times and it didn’t look like they went very quick. Jezki more done him for toe going to the last so today I was making sure it was a strong run race and I wasn’t afraid to take it up at the third last as the one thing I wanted to do was knock the speed out of Jezki. I know he stays three miles but he’s still a Champion Hurdle winner. I had that in the back of my mind and I think I got a run coming down the hill. One thing I do like is that when he missed the last he picked up and went on again. He’s definitely one to look forward to. He has a massive engine and you just have to look back to the Supreme Novice form where he has beaten the first and second favourites for the Champion Hurdle. He’s got an engine and please god we can keep him right.”

Jessica Harrington said of Jezki:- “I knew it was a risk coming here on the ground. He’s never liked heavy ground, and has been beaten on it plenty of times. The main thing is that he’s alright tomorrow, and all options are still open (at Cheltenham).”

Lucky 15 February 18th

Friday 4.30pm Cracking Saturday afternoon of National Hunt racing with four good cards at Haydock, Ascot, Wincanton and Gowran Park. Maybe could have done with a few more runners in the handicaps but horses to keep an eye on with regard to Cheltenham are Yanworth in the Kingwell hurdle (2.45 Wincanton) and Jezki (Gowran Park 3.05) re Champion hurdle, Cue Card, Traffic Fluide, Taquin du Seuil etc (Ascot3.35) re Gold Cup/RyanAir and the Ascot 1.15 and Haydock 3.50 may throw up a Neptune/Alfred Bartlett springer! As for the Festival handicaps there is a Pertemps qualifier at Haydock (2.40) and some guilty looking sorts in the wrong race/distance etc such as Mall Dini in the Beginners Chase at Gowran 1.20, Tony Martin has a couple at Haydock etc..

Nice to see, via twitter “Rebecca Curtis has 5 at Ascot tomorrow, her first runners for 17 days. Jonathan Moore rides 4 of them, having not ridden for RC since 14 Dec” chris cook ‏@claimsfive  The Guardian

 Saturday Lucky 15

Ascot 2.25                               VIRAK                                      8/1 general                   

Ascot 3.00                               TEMPLEROSS                          9/2 general

Haydock 3.15                         VIEUX LION ROUGE                13/2 general

Haydock 3.50                         THE WORLDS END                 7/2 general     

and here’s why

Ascot 2.25                               VIRAK  Got a mention in my Ante Post piece yesterday. “I have Virak very much on the radar and think Paul Nicholls has him coming to the boil nicely, is well handicapped and about to land a nice prize over 3m+ on Soft ground. Indeed if he runs in the 2.25 at Ascot on Saturday instead he would carry my money based on his excellent second to Wakanda in the C&D Listed Silver Cup off a mark six pounds higher (Currently 16/1 with PP).” The price has gone but so has most of the opposition, just the seven runners! Sausolito Sunrise was 5lbs lower when winning this year but hasn’t run as well since and I’m not sure those cheek-pieces help, the classy O’Faolains Boy is on the comeback trail again, Tenor Nivernais and Cloudy Too have their best days behind them, Chef D’Oeuvre needs a bog and further though he has a featherweight here and I’d have the Rooneys Go Conquer as the main danger.

Ascot 3.00                               TEMPLEROSS He went up just 3lbs when a well-supported second to Modus in the Lanzarote hurdle at Kempton and it is really hard to get away from that form that has been well franked twice already when the 3rd Lord of the Island won the Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Sandown and the fifth Kalondra sauntered home in a C2 handicap hurdle at Huntingdon. Add to that Jamie Bargary can claim 3lbs and the excellent form of the Twiston-Davies yard and Templeross has to be a bet. Plenty of dangers but a few to keep an eye on. Two long term absentees, firstly Ordo ab Cheo for Alan King who was really well thought of and had strong novice form including a seventh in the Neptune at the 2015 Festival having won a trial at Cheltenham previously with his Official Rating dropped from 145 to 137 for eighteen months off, secondly Nicky Hendersons Oscar Hoof who has been off for the best part of three years since falling when just 11/2 to win the Grade 1 Mersey hurdle at Aintree. His mark has slipped just 6lbs from OR138 to 132. However the dangers for today are more likely to be Air Force One, winner of two novice hurdles, who Harry Fry sends handicapping for the first time and Divine Spear who was an excellent third to William H Bonney in a C2 handicap hurdle at Cheltenham and Nicky Henderson continues to use Ned Curtis’s 5lb claim and I wonder if connections have one eye on the Martin Pipe at the Festival?

Haydock 3.15                         VIEUX LION ROUGE Put him up in my Ante Post staying chasers treble and I have no reason to change my mind. Thurs. 1pm Vieux Lion Rouge was an impressive winner of the 3m 2f Becher Chase over the National fences when last seen and we know he jumps and stays, we know that he has a touch of class, he was sixth in that red hot 4m NH chase at Cheltenham. What we don’t know is what shape David Pipe’s Pond House string are in as the aforementioned Becher Chase is the only Graded chase the yard has won for two years and they haven’t been setting Saturdays on fire. How fit will Vieux Lion Rouge be as obviously this season is all about April 8th and the Grand National itself? As an 8yo I think he is still improving and is a well weighted solid staying chaser and I shall back him at to win at 13/2 with William Hill or BetFred (Was 8/1 when I started writing this piece!).”

Haydock 3.50                         THE WORLDS END I think the in-form connections of Tom George, Adrian Heskin and the McNeill family may have a star on their hands here. Won his bumper at Chepstow last season, was third to Gayebury at Ffos Las on hurdling debut when too keen but has won his next two at Chepstow both times over 2m 3f. The downside is can he transfer that form away from South Wales and how will he cope with the three furlong rise in trip? My answers would be “of course he can” and “he’ll love it”! The upsides of this horse greatly overwhelm any doubts as visually impressive on both winning runs, form that has been confirmed with both the horses who finished second to The Worlds End winning since. Full Irish won a C3 at Leicester beating the likes of Laser Light and Reigning Supreme whilst Testify put away Lough Derg Farmer and Over to Sam. Solid stuff. In both wins The Worlds End jumped, travelled and quickened to put the race to bed and there is not much more you can ask for!

Friday Lucky 15

Frustrating afternoon, especially the first race, and I’m not in the habit of jumping up and down about tipping an even money winner!

Fakenham 2.00                       PRINCE OF STEAL                   UR       10/1

How very annoying! Got no further than the fourth when as half expected Mr Mix failed to complete, Omessa Has ran like a cow and the total rag has obliged at 22/1!

Sandown 2.10                                    POUGNE BOBBI                      5th        11/10F

Really disappointing. Lost place halfway down back straight, kept on albeit at one pace. Perhaps does need to go back up in trip but will be on a 14lb higher mark!

Sandown 2.40                                    COLINS SISTER                       1st        Evs        

Gutsy mare who deserves another crack at Grade 1 level but needed every yard of this 2m 4f trip.          Punchestown?

Fakenham 3.00                       RAKTIMAN                             3rd      9/2

Prominent throughout but always pushed along. Led 2 out but no answer to comfortable winner, Rear Admiral.               


MONEY TALKS Oldtown point to point winner Flemenshill went to the Tattersalls Cheltenham sales as the talking horse on Thursday and connections were not disappointed as the well bred gelding went through the ring for an incredible £480,000. Hailing from the Colin McKeever and Wilson Dennison team, a duo who have produced a number of high class performers including last year’s Cheltenham Festival winner Yorkhill, plus fellow Grade 1 winners Bellshill and Shaneshill, who all who came through the point-to-point ranks, the son of Flemensfirth becomes the most expensive point to point horse sold at the sales. Partnered by Noel McParlan at Oldtown on February 5th, the four-year-old easily accounted for expensive purchase Defi Bleu (€255,000) who topped last year’s Tattersalls Derby sale for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud. The horse is out of the unraced Dr Massini mare Southern Skies, who has produced four winners from six runners and is a half sister to Strong Flow, a six-time winner which included the Grade 3 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and the Grade 1 Feltham Novices” Chase at Kempton in 2003. He will now join Colin Tizzard’s stable of stars.

Other notable sales for point to point graduates include Paul Cashman’s Kilfeacle winner On The Blind Side bought for £205,000 goes to Nicky Henderson for Alan Spence, Getareason who finished second in the Punchestown four-year-old maiden on Sunday for Warren Ewing sold to Harold Kirk/Willie Mullins for £140,000, James Doyle’s Bitingthebullet who finished ahead of Getareason going to Evan Williams for £170,000 and Warren Ewing’s Sending Love, a Kirkistown winner last Saturday, also going to Harold Kirk/Willie Mullins for £130,000. Ex-Irish point to point graduates sold for a combined total of £1,945,000 on Thursday. Get them in the Tracker!

Lucky 15 February 16th

Thursday 6pm Not Sandown’s best quality card but the seven race Fakenham card is well above average supported by the likes of Messrs Nicholls, Henderson and Skelton. The Irish continue to have it in for the British Horseracing authority’s senior handicapper Phil Smith. I have to agree that some of his figures issued seem vindictive. Mind you the difference between English and Irish marks seems protectionist on both sides and don’t even get me started on their French equivalent!

On his regular Ask the Handicapper slot on ATR, head handicapper Phil Smith said: “We spend around an extra 18 hours a week, that’s about three hours a week for each of our six jumps handicappers, to keep [separate] Irish ratings. We do it because we want our handicaps to be as competitive as possible.” He added: “Years and years ago, we used to put them in off their Irish marks and it was tremendously successful for Irish trainers. So it was the English trainers who said that we should keep our own Irish ratings.” To justify his approach, Smith said: “Over the last eight seasons, in all handicaps in Britain, 11 per cent is the Irish strike-rate and ten per cent is the UK strike-rate. I’ve no problem with it being higher, they wouldn’t run one out of the handicap with no chance, for instance, but it’s amazing that we’ve been able to keep it consistent for so long. The Racing Post keeps their own ratings, they’re often different from ours. Timeform are often different from ours. Ireland are different from ours. It doesn’t mean they’re right or they’re wrong. What’s important is that you’re consistent with yourself.”

Friday Lucky 15

Fakenham 2.00                       PRINCE OF STEAL                   10/1 PP 9/1 general

Sandown 2.10                                    POUGNE BOBBI                      7/4 BetFred 13/8 general         

Sandown 2.40                                    COLINS SISTER                       6/5 WH Evs general                   

Fakenham 3.00                       RAKTIMAN                             7/2 general       


and here’s why


Fakenham 2.00                       PRINCE OF STEAL What a curious little race! A five runner C3 2m 5f novice chase at Fakenham! I don’t like the three at the top of the market and I don’t think Bonnets Vino is good enough, although the trainer, Pam Sly, does well here. What’s worse the horse jumps right, not ideal on this tightest of tight left hand tracks, please note James Banks. Zeroshadesofgrey is a huge boat of a horse who needs six miles on a galloping track, just can’t believe they are running him at Fakenham! Omessa Has, Nicky Hendersons mare, was much touted on arrival from France but has shown nothing in three runs in the UK but she was on my radar for a handicap hurdle as I didn’t think Daryl Jacob was trying too hard last time! She was meant to be a chaser but there isn’t a lot of her and this isn’t Auteuil! Mr Mix could be anything over fences. Indeed this French bred son of Al Namix has probably been screaming for a fence but why give him his chasing debut at the very trappy Fakenham. Just don’t trust the horse! Indeed why are Messrs Nicholls and Henderson risking their inmates losing their novice status in March? Most odd. So the plusses for the selection. He won twice around this tight track as a hurdler and made his chasing debut here in a C3 event where he jumped beautifully making all until he ran out of petrol at the second last but was still in contention at the last when squeezed right up by the two in front, had nowhere to go and had an unlucky fall. If James Banks can get him to repeat the dose the fancied horses will have to get it right first time to beat him. Must watch contest.

Sandown 2.10                                    POUGNE BOBBI If you saw this lad in the paddock you would just know he was trained at Seven Barrows by Nicky Henderson. He is a tall, leggy, athletic, black horse and his trainer doesn’t run them too often within ten days under a penalty but that is negated by the claim of competent stable amateur Mr Hunt. 6yo Pougne Bobbi on just his second chasing start took apart a competitive field in a C3 Novice Handicap at Ludlow recently, making just about every yard, jumping straight and true, hardly touching a twig. Drops three furlongs here but his jumping will be a major plus at Sandown and I expect time to show that he was thrown in here off a mark of OR135.

Sandown 2.40                                    COLINS SISTER  My notes say “useful but not Grade1”. Trainer Fergal O’Brien tells why she is ideally suited to this Grade 2, “We’ve waited a long time for this race. We are very lucky to have an owner and breeder that wants to take their time with her. There are lots of races we could have gone for before this one, but we wanted to keep her against her own sex for now. She did it well at Warwick on her penultimate start and did nothing wrong at Haydock last time. She has been very good so far. It is the right ground and the right trip, we just need a bit of luck on the day. I think the filly gets better the further she goes. In her bumpers last year she was never doing her best work until the end. We are hopeful of another good run.”

Fakenham 3.00                       RAKTIMAN I think this is a good bit of placement by team England who send just the one horse from their Pontefract, Yorkshire base to Norfolk, Raktiman rated OR125 carrying top weight in this £8K 0-125 Class 3 2m 5f handicap chase. Raktiman ran his best race of the current campaign when a solid second to Templehills here just before Christmas and the winner has since won a C2 contest at Warwick and is rated a stone higher! The two market rivals in a tight betting heat are a Nicky Henderson nag that hasn’t run in close on two years and an Ian Williams bottom weight who is still an 8yo maiden after five runs in PtP’s and five under rules.


Thursday Lucky 15

What a bummer! Three seconds and a non-runner!

Kelso 1.55                               SPANISH FLEET                       2nd 10/3          

Kelso 2.25                               ONE FOR HARRY                    2nd 5/1                

Kelso 4.40                               SOME REIGN                          2nd 3/1                            

Leicester 3.45                         WINNER MASSAGOT             Non Runner  


        Greatrex targets Festival glory February 16 2017, 12:55 GMT

Greatrex took out a licence in 2009 as a salaried trainer to Malcolm Denmark and, after relinquishing the role and moving to the famous Uplands training facility in 2012, where the great Fred Winter was based for many years, his career has gone from strength to strength. Cole Harden’s triumph was the highlight of an excellent season for the Lambourn handler, which ended with 51 winners and well over half a million pounds in win and place prize money. “Cole Harden winning the Stayers’ Hurdle was a fantastic day,” recalled Greatrex. “The horse had been prepared in tip top shape and we knew we had him in great form. Did I think he was going to win? No, but I definitely thought he could run a big race. “It was unreal watching it. Everything went like clockwork. You found yourself counting down the hurdles as he went along and it was becoming more and more real that he was going to win it. From when you start training, these are the sort of races you want to be winning. Everyone knows Cheltenham is our biggest meeting of the season, there are only so many races to be won, and we won one of the big four. To do that you definitely get looked at differently at by your peers because you are suddenly in the big league. There is more pressure afterwards because you are expected to do it year on year, but it proves to everyone out there that you can do it on the big stage. Cole Harden was a well-beaten fourth behind Thistlecrack in last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle but has produced two promising displays over hurdles at Cheltenham this season. The eight-year-old was third in the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day before finishing second to Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry in the Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day. “Judged on his last two performances, it looks like Cole Harden is on the way back,” said Greatrex. “The Cleeve Hurdle was basically his best run since he won the Stayers’ Hurdle and that was on ground that he doesn’t enjoy. He was suffering from a knee injury last year. He was finding it hard and I think it was getting him down. This season, he seems to have a new lease of life and his work has been brilliant. We haven’t had any hold ups at the moment and touch wood it all goes to plan between now and then because seems in as good a form as when he won it. I have got the utmost respect for the favourite Unowhatimeanharry. He looks very solid and is definitely the one to beat. If the ground came up good, he might be a bit more vulnerable than on softer ground, whereas we are the other way round. I don’t know what the Irish are bringing over but, after that run in the Cleeve, in my view we are the second best of the British runners. We know if we can get him there in top form he is capable of running a very big race.”

Greatrex’s Cheltenham contenders also include La Bague Au Roi, who was won six of her seven careers starts and is the leading British-trained hope for the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, Weatherbys Champion Bumper fancy Western Ryder and Keeper Hill, winner of the Listed Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon on February 9.

La Bague Au Roi is doing really well,” reported the trainer. “We are really excited by her. She is going to Cheltenham with a leading chance and should run a huge race. She obviously won her three hurdles early on, then had a winter break and has been back for a few weeks now. She looks really, really well and has started doing some easier pieces of work. She has only disappointed me once and that was at Aintree last season when I am adamant she wasn’t right. Apart from that, she has looked extremely good and her hurdling has improved with each run. She beat some good yardsticks at Newbury on her last start – the second horse [Dusky Legend] was second to Limini at Cheltenham last year. She has been leading in her races but I don’t think she needs to and I actually think she might be better with a lead. We have been making the running because the field have been small and we didn’t want a falsely run race.

Western Ryder will go for the Champion Bumper, all being well. Like anything, I was gutted he got beat at Newbury but to give 21lb away to a horse that Nicky Henderson thinks the world of is a huge run. I think he will improve off the back of that, especially for a fast-run race on better ground. I think good ground and the whole atmosphere at Cheltenham will bring this horse alive. You would have to say he is one of the leading British hopes.

I am not totally sure what we are going to do with Keeper Hill. There is a chance he might go to Aintree instead. Nothing is set in stone at the moment and he will be left in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the next stage. He has come out of Huntingdon in great form. He didn’t do anything right and still managed to win, which is obviously the sign of a good horse, but it just depends whether or not he is ready for Cheltenham this year. He has got a huge career in front of him and I think he is a very good horse, but we have to go to mind him.

Missed Approach could be interesting if the ground came up on the soft side. It just comes down to whether I run him in the National Hunt Chase or the Kim Muir. He was well below his best in the Towton last time. We missed the first and he was on the back foot from there. It was chalk and cheese compared to his win at Lingfield before that.”