5.15pm Philip Hobbs is now on the Hot trainers list! Soon talked that up, let’s hope Dan Skelton can now catch fire. Plenty of Cheltenham clues this weekend and I’ve got the Henderson novices, the Nicholls big guns and anything Willie Mullins runs firmly in my sights. The Pertemps Qualifiers at Musselburgh (Saturday) and Punchestown (Sunday) will be worthy of the closest scrutiny. Big weekend for a couple of young claiming jockeys attached to big yards, Ned Curtis for Henderson and Stan Sheppard for Paul Nicholls.
Going 07:51 Sat. Fairyhouse soft to heavy (2mm rain overnight). Forecast heavy rain expected today, mainly dry tomorrow.
Going 07:42 Sun. Punchestown soft to heavy. Forecast rain, heavy at times, today, mainly dry tomorrow with frost expected on Saturday night.
Important Wetherby update: GOING/TRACK SOFT. (GoingStick: CH: 5.6 Hu: 5.8 on Thursday at 13:00) Rails:A1 bend is located 26yds from its innermost position. The Away Chase bend is located on it’s innermost line and the Away Hurdle bend is located 20yds from its innermost position. Impact on races distances is as follows: Races 1 & 7: +138yds Races 2, 5 & 6: +156yds Race 3: +216yds Race 4: +276yds WEATHER 2mm rain on Sunday evening. 2mm of rain in showers during Tuesday, but otherwise overcast and settled. 15mm rain overnight into Wednesday. dry and overcast during Thursday.Dry & breezy overnight into Friday. The forecast for Friday is for a dry and bright day. Cloud is set to build up from evening onwards and we are due some rain overnight with between 3mm and 6mm forecast. Saturday is set to be another dry day.
Saturday Lucky 15
Plenty I fancy this weekend but it’s finding the price to match.
Wetherby 1.40 OLD GRANGEWOOD 4/1 PP 7/2 general
Musselburgh 2.05 FIVE IN A ROW 6/1 BetFred 11/2 general
Musselburgh 3.15 COOL SKY 9/1 general
Sandown 3.35 ROCK THE KASBAH 9/2 WH 4/1 general
and here’s why
Wetherby 1.40 OLD GRANGEWOOD Course and distance winner last time out who is very much on the improve and one who has held his form in the Skelton’s drought of winners. Raised just 4lb for that win he can once again do us and connections a favour. Harry Skelton has a solid book of rides at Wetherby but this looks his best chance of a winner.
Musselburgh 2.05 FIVE IN A ROW His run two races back at Sedgefield suggested that extreme distances on good ground would be what Five in a Row wanted. Well this is four miles round Musselburgh on Good ground, I like the booking of Henry Brooke off a racing weight of 11st and this looks another where all the ducks are lined up! Last time out the selection couldn’t go the pace of a highly competitive London National round Sandown Park in rain softened ground although his jumping held up. Should be able to get into a rhythm here and his touch of class, ran at Cheltenham festival last March, can see him home in front for an in-form Brian Ellison yard.
Musselburgh 3.15 COOL SKY A sharp two miles on good ground are probably ideal conditions and his recent form placed behind River Frost and Divine Sky is solid enough to make him competitive here. It will be interesting to see who the red hot Ian Williams books to ride off 10st 1lb?
Sandown 3.35 ROCK THE KASBAH I think this horse has been crying out for three miles over fences. Soft ground won’t be an issue, he jumped well enough at Ascot last time to put it up to Politologue and Messr’s Hobbs and Johnson seem to have got the show back on the road! Kicking myself for not taking 10/1 available two days ago but he had multiple entries including the G1 Scilly Isles on this card!
Richard Johnson Betway Friday February 3 My best ride of the day is Rock The Kasbah (5/1) in the handicap chase (3.35pm), who steps up to three miles for the first time. We’ve always felt that he wants this distance. All he did was stay last year and it was the same when he was second at Ascot last time. I don’t think he’d want the ground to be horrendous, but he handled bad ground last season and the chase course isn’t normally quite as testing as the hurdles track. He’s in great order at home, his form is solid and he should run a big race.
Sunday Lucky 15
As I’m posting this Friday night I may not be able to give a price guide! I will send a brief update out at 11am Sunday morning.
Punchestown 2.00 PRESENTING PERCY
Taunton 3.50 VERNI
Punchestown 4.00 BAIE DES ILES
Musselburgh 4.10 CLONDAW KAEMPFER
and here’s why
Punchestown 2.00 PRESENTING PERCY Plenty in this field who may have one eye on the Pertemps Final itself but the likes of Oscar Sam and Exactoris may prefer to be a running on 4th/5th/6th (??) whereas Presenting Percy off OR129 (irish) may need to win this just to be sure of getting in the field. Had expected Davy Russell to ride but he would struggle to do 10st 5lbs and David Mullins is not a bad substitute. Could see this horse backed heavily on Sunday as there have been strong smoke signals from the same yard that houses Mall Dini, winner of the Final itself last season!
Taunton 3.50 VERNI Let’s keep the Hobbs/Johnson lovefest going as I think Verni is thrown into this race, one of those ridiculous “seniors 8yo+” handicap hurdles. The Rooneys have always owned him but he was with James Ewart originally running in three bumpers. Verni may be an 8yo but this is only his fifth try over hurdles, goes “well” in soft ground and he has form figures of 3112 and that second was at Haydock when the only one to give the progressive Clyne a race. Never expected to find an improver in a “senior” race!
Richard Johnson Betway Friday February 3 I’m off to Taunton for four rides on Sunday. Hopefully the ground will be okay, as it’s likely to be better there than most courses. The one I’m most looking forward to is Verni in the handicap hurdle (3.50pm). He’s lightly-raced and the form of his second to Clyne at Haydock in November has been franked a number of times. He should appreciate the slightly better ground and is definitely going the right way.
Punchestown 4.00 BAIE DES ILES Love the trainer, Gavin Cromwell, who laid out this mare for the Welsh National to find the ground was unseasonably good and a 6yo carrying 11st 12lb jumped and galloped them silly! This race is just a couple of furlongs shorter but you will certainly be able to get your toe in with the ground forecast to be Soft to Heavy. Regular pilot Ms Katie Walsh is in the saddle again trying to go one better than last year when they were a 6l second to Bonny Kate who they meet here on the same terms. However Bonny Kate only ran ten days ago when a gruelling third to Champagne West in the Thyestes at Gowran Park.
Musselburgh 4.10 CLONDAW KAEMPFER Big things were promised by Clondaw Kaempfer in his younger days that never really materialised although he has twice run midfield in the Coral Cup at the Festival. Big and gangly, immature and consistent, really good on his day but this season he seems to have got his act together being placed behind Messira des Obeaux and Florrie Boy before being stepped up to 3m on good ground here at Musselburgh where he jumped, travelled and quickened in beating Arthurs Secret. Raised just 3lb he could be well in off just OR131 in this Pertemps qualifier with plenty question marks over those at the top of the handicap who may just be happy to qualify, finish in the top six, whereas a win here for the selection and he could be back at Cheltenham with a shot at the Pertemps Final which is just the sort of boost his trainer, a reincarnate Donald McCain, could do with!
Friday Lucky 15
Not exactly an awe inspiring afternoon but Black Narcissus came from out of the clouds to just about get our money back!
Catterick 2.15 CAPRICE D’ANGLAIS 5th 5/1
Tried to make all but was beaten before turning for home!
Catterick 2.45 LOUGH SALT Fell 7/2JF
Going nowhere when fell two out.
Catterick 3.20 TREATY GIRL Pulled Up 15/8F
Always the way when you get 4/1 the night before! The Stewards considered the running of TREATY GIRL (IRE) ridden by Nico de Boinville, and trained by Ben Pauling, which was pulled up. The Stewards noted the explanation from the trainer’s representative that the mare was unsuited by the going which was Soft, Good to Soft in Places, as it was too tacky on this occasion.
Catterick 3.55 BLACK NARCISSUS 1st 4/1
Amazing. Never thought she was going to win until the last 100yds! Fair sprinted home after 3m+.
Let’s have a look round Blogland and the inter-webby thing for further clues for the weekend!
Henderson/Stan James Blog
Now onto CHARLI PARCS! I really wanted to run him at Cheltenham last week as that had been the objective for quite some time but we didn’t so CHARLI will now go to Kempton Park for the Adonis Hurdle in two weeks’ time.
CHAMP made a winning debut at Southwell. I don’t think we’ll be doing anything spectacular with him for the rest of the season and it’s unlikely that he’ll run in the Champion Bumper as Barry Geraghty felt he was quite naive so needs some more experience. He will run again but probably not at Cheltenham.
SANDOWN 12:40 RATHER BE (Novices’ Hurdle) He’s stepping back down to 2 miles having won over 2m4f last time but the softer ground will make this a decent test which will suit. I think he’ll handle it but he does have to give weight all round, and to Alan King’s good four-year-old so we’ve got Ned Curtis to take off a valuable 5lbs claim. He’s a horse that has been going the right way and we’ve had to be quite patient with him as he’s had lots of silly little problems and he’s probably still a bit immature but he’s definitely a nice horse and one who deserves to take his chance.
MUSSELBURGH 12:25 GAITWAY (Maiden Hurdle) He missed the Tolworth due to a small health issue but didn’t lose out on much work and is back and raring to go. He’s going up to Musselburgh to get decent ground and it seems a nice race for him to get off the mark. I’ve always thought he was a high class horse and we will know what to do next after the outcome of this. He’s a lovely prospect and is one you’d have to be more than hopeful of breaking his duck here.
SUNDAY MUSSELBURGH 1:40 BURBANK (Novice Hurdle)
He hit a bit of a flat spot at Huntington last time so we’re upping him 2m3f which will be in his favour and the good ground up there will also help him. He’s in good form and looked very good in the end on his last run, when he really took off and I’d like to think he’d be up to winning this.
SUNDAY MUSSELBURGH 2:40 LOUGH DERG SPIRIT (Novice Hurdle) He was very impressive at Kempton but was a little disappointing at Ascot after that so we’ve ironed out a few problems and he’s fully back on track now. Looking further ahead to Cheltenham, I don’t know, but we’ll find out much more here, that’s for sure! He’s a good mover who will like the ground.
SUNDAY MUSSELBURGH 4:40 CAPTAIN WOODIE (Bumper) It wasn’t a great race he won at Taunton, on quite quick ground, but he did it nicely and I think he wants this type of ground as he’s a lovely moving animal. I like his chances.
Hi Nicky, what’s the latest on Different Gravey? Any improvement since Cheltenham run and will he go to Cheltenham?
Gravey is on his way back after we discovered that he was suffering from quite sever stomach ulcers which may go some way to explaining his Cheltenham display where he didn’t jump a twig. He was scoped again this morning and what we were looking for has now gone so I hope we can get him back believing in himself again. He can’t go straight to the Festival so I need to run him beforehand but where that will be, I haven’t decided yet, although we’ve only got a few weeks left!
Alan King Latest News Friday February 3
It’s been a mixture of good and bad news this week, and it also looks a relatively quiet week-end for us, with just the two runners on Saturday, Fidux heading off to Musselburgh for the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial and Coeur de Lyon taking on older horses in the opening novice hurdle at Sandown.
The downer was Yanworth having to miss his scheduled prep for the Champion Hurdle on the Esher course tomorrow in the Contenders Hurdle – “he pulled a muscle and, while Kelso next Saturday is an option, the Kingwell at Wincanton looks the more likely as it would give us an extra week and is a lot closer to home,” reasoned Alan, who also has Sceau Royal (in different ownership) going for that February 18 trial.
Richard Johnson Betway Friday February 3 I landed the handicap hurdle (15:00) with Saddlers Encore 12 months ago and it would be lovely to do so again with Rolling Dylan (11/2). He’s been very consistent in all of his runs this term. It was frustrating that he didn’t win last season, although that means he’s still a novice. The stamina test will suit him and he’s an improving horse which you need in a race like this.
Davy Russell Betway Friday February 3 Punchestown on Sunday I’m really looking forward to getting back aboard Oscar Sam in the three-mile handicap hurdle (2.00pm).
It was April 2014 when I last sat on him, but that was before he made the switch to Jessie Harrington. He won nicely at Leopardstown last time when I chased him home on Mydor, but the handicapper has put him up another 7lbs for that. Hopefully he will put up another strong show, but there looks to be plenty of well-handicapped sorts lurking below at the foot of the weights.
Racing UK Friday 3 February 2017 Campeador, ante-post favourite with some bookmakers for the County Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival, is out for the season due to injury. The Gordon Elliott-trained five-year-old looked in with a major chance of victory in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at Prestbury Park last March until he crashed out at the final flight. He made his seasonal reappearance in a valuable event at Fairyhouse in early December and appeared set to make a winning return until he again came to grief at the last hurdle. The grey is as short as 8-1 for the County Hurdle, but Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus,told the Irish Independent: “He won’t be going over and the next time he’ll race will likely be in the summer or autumn. He didn’t get badly injured at Fairyhouse or anything like that but it was a horrible fall and these things take time to get over. At least he’s still in one piece.”
Racing UK Friday 3 February 2017 Owner John Hales has identified the RSA Chase as Ibis Du Rheu‘s most likely Cheltenham Festival target. The six-year-old has done pretty well in three tries over fences and produced a fine performance at Cheltenham last Saturday, when third in a competitive handicap chase over two miles and five furlongs.
Hales said: “He ran a super race at Cheltenham.He should have probably finished second, but it was such a good effort giving lumps of weight away like he did. He’ll go for the RSA now and he should hopefully go well.” Ibis Du Rheu, who also holds entries in the four-miler and the JLT Novices’ Chase, can be backed at around 33-1 for the RSA.