Friday 6pm Clear your desk, turn your phone off, there is some serious racing this weekend. Newbury and Warwick have loads of quality if a bit short on quantity, Colin Tizzard is flexing his muscles at Exeter on Sunday and the Leopardstown card is sublime. That Irish meeting has a load of Cheltenham fancies running against each other and the possibility that Ruby may be on the wrong one!
A Gordon Elliott quote you may like to take into consideration if backing the trainers Cheltenham runners Ante Post! “We were toying with the idea of going to the Betfair Hurdle but winners in Ireland are more important than winners in England so we won’t go for that,” said Elliott, making plain the importance to him of a first trainers’ title.”
Interesting to see the following paragraph in the latest of Lydia Hislops “Road to Cheltenham” articles on sportinglife.com, “In recent years you’d wonder whether Mullins would give the Festival a go anyway but with the Irish trainers’ title so close, you can’t help but wonder whether some of the reinforcements might be kept back for a swoop on Punchestown.” My point exactly!
Talking of the Irish at Cheltenham here’s an odd little piece that explains the complications of handicapping. Johnny Ward Irish Independent 10/02/2017 Two rugby stars’ quest for a Cheltenham winner seems to have run aground because of a bizarre move by the British handicapper. Bordeaux’s Ian Madigan and Leinster’s Dominic Ryan are part-owners of The Crafty Butcher, an agonising second in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas. That run saw senior Irish handicapper Noel O’Brien promote the horse from a mark of 127 to 135. And while his English counterpart, Phil Smith, is frequently berated for giving Irish horses much higher figures across the water, The Crafty Butcher has been put in at a 3lb lower mark over there. Normally seen as a boost for a horse’s prospects, this ensures that the Willie Mullins-trained horse has little chance of getting into next month’s Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase, which left Ryan gutted at his dream of a winner at the Festival being dashed. The Leinster star said: “Our Irish rating would be enough to get in at the bottom of most Kim Muirs, but we’ve been given a UK rating of 132 which means we will not get in. We were expecting to get an increase on our Irish rating: that seems to be the case 99 per cent of the time. This is obviously disappointing – a Cheltenham runner would have been great. It’s especially strange given we’re talking about one trained by Willie.”
Trainer Pat Kelly has a different concern. Mall Dini is being aimed at the Kim Muir too and he got a rating of 142 in his homeland but a 4lb hike in Britain would take him out of the race, restricted to those rated 145 or lower. The Craughwell, Co Galway handler is likely to know his fate next week. He’s not keen on running the horse in the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase, for which bookmakers have had him towards the top of the market. Mall Dini was a winner over hurdles at Cheltenham last March.
Saturday Lucky 15
Newbury 1.50 LAC FONTANA 12/1 PP 10/1 general
Newbury 3.35 MOVEWITHTHETIMES 11/2 general
Newbury 4.10 VINNIE RED 3/1 general
Newbury 4.45 INFINITE SUN 14/1 Ladbrokes 12/1 general
and here’s why
Were going for Messrs Paul Nicholls and Fergal O’Brien to have a brace each. The Ditcheat juggernaut is getting up a head of steam and Fergal O’Brien has been this seasons most improved yard.
Newbury 1.50 LAC FONTANA On his way back from a tendon injury and I thought he ran well enough for long enough on his return to be of interest here. Two seasons ago he was beaten less than nine lengths by Faugheen in the Ascot hurdle at level weights and he’s down to a mark of OR139 having been twelve pounds higher at his peak. Bit surprised “ton up” Sam Twiston Davies has chosen stable mate Red Hanrahan on seasonal debut but no issues with Nick Schofield. Lac Fontana could find three miles on Soft ground at C2 level very much to his liking.
Paul Nicholls in Betfair blog “While mine don’t normally want two races to be 100% fit, my gut feeling is that he will come on again for this.”
Newbury 3.35 MOVEWITHTHETIMES This was top of my short list even before the entries came out and nothing has changed my mind since. The only disappointment has been the price. Allegedly Paul Nicholls has backed him for the Supreme at Cheltenham and he’s in here off OR136 and could easily be a OR150+ horse. No luck behind Moon Racer at Cheltenham in a Supreme Trial, he has hacked up in a novice hurdle since. Sure to be trained to the minute and is Geraghty’s choice of the JP McManus mob.
Paul Nicholls in Betfair blog It was no surprise to me that Barry Geraghty chose to ride Movewiththetimes who has progressed really well this season. He has won twice over hurdles and had about as much daylight as a coal miner at midnight when he was beaten only three and a half lengths in fifth place behind Moon Racer at Cheltenham. I liked the way he finished that day after running into all sorts of traffic problems and it is fair to say his coat looks amazing at the moment. We do like Movewiththetimes who is still unexposed but does lack the experience of most of his battle-hardened rivals here.”
Regular readers may want a De Name Escapes Me update. Have seen a picture of him exercising at Newbury, but we’ve been here before! I have not had a cent him this time, despite some wonderful logic on the Final Furlong Podcast! He’s simply been off the course too long. I wish him a safe passage and a “faded from second last 8th, will do nicely!
Newbury 4.10 VINNIE RED I’ll bet Fergal O’Brien can’t believe his luck with just the seven going to post! Vinnie Red did us a big favour over Christmas when not putting a hoof wrong on chasing debut at Market Rasen. Connections would like to run him at Cheltenham but would need to go very close here to get his mark high enough. Vieux Lille is the obvious danger with his last two bits of form being a third to American and second in the C2 tommy Whittle at Haydock behind Yala Enki. I just think he needs a bit further in trip.
ATR Stable Tour 8th Feb. “He is another who came to us from the Ruckers and he was third for us first time out over hurdles at Huntingdon then won for us over fences at Market Rasen. He is a really nice horse and I would really like to get him in the novice handicap chase at Cheltenham over two miles and four. He need to win at Newbury this week in a novice handicap chase to go there.”
Newbury 4.45 INFINITE SUN Really liked his effort in beating Sneaky Feeling and Western Ryder at Market Rasen. O’Brien has a cracking band of bumper horses and this one could possibly be the best. Cracking price!
ATR Stable Tour 8th Feb. “He shocked us all when winning first time out at Market Rasen and the second horse Western Ryder won the listed race at Ascot. He goes to Newbury in a couple of weeks. He picked up a bit of bug in between and is a big horse who appears to be back on the go now. He’s a really nice horse.”
Friday Lucky 15
Excellent effort by the third leg but still not a good day when a non-runner is your best result! Hey it’s a pound back!
Kempton 1.40 KEATING 6th 14/1
No market interest and never competitive in the race either! One paced.
Kempton 3.10 VYTA DU ROC 5th 15/8F
Really disappointing especially having stolen 10/3 last night! Probably needs flat, left handed track and another half mile. Always seemed to be going half a yard quicker than he wanted? Mistake at first on second circuit didn’t help!
Kempton 3.45 TUDORS TREASURE 3rd 14/1
Progress on second circuit, every chance two out, front two stayed on better.
Kempton 4.15 MOTUEKA Non runner
Very well put together review of Sundays Leopardstown card I’ve borrowed from Timeform.
Leopardstown on Sunday Timeform 10th February 2017
“There’s a wonderful day of racing at Leopardstown on Sunday, with four Grade 1 races on the card. The Spring Juvenile and Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle will provide pointers for the Cheltenham Festival, as will the Flogas Novices’ Chase, while the Irish Gold Cup is both the feature race on the day and also an excellent trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in five weeks’ time.
Carlingford Lough stayed on best to beat Road To Riches and land back-to-back wins in the Irish Gold Cup 12 months ago, though both might have had to settle for a place had Valseur Lido not unseated Ruby Walsh at the last. A recent spin over hurdles should have put Carlingford Lough spot on for this hat-trick bid and he is fancied to repel all challengers once more. Fellow J.P.McManus-owned Minella Rocco is an interesting contender, having been off since taking a heavy fall at Aintree in December. He has been a mover for the Cheltenham Gold Cup recently and a big run is expected here. Don Poli, who bounced back to form when second to stablemate Outlander in the Lexus Chase, and Sizing John, who has stamina to prove as he steps up to three miles for the first time, look the pick of the remainder.
Only Unaccompanied (2011) and Petite Parisienne (2015) have struck for the females in recent years, however Meri Devie has a good chance of adding another win in the Spring Hurdle. The French Flat winner was strong in the betting when beating Houseofparliament over C&D in December and she’s destined for big things in the juvenile department judged on that flawless display (ran to a big figure straight away). Stablemate Bapaume improved again when beating Landofhopeandglory in a Grade 2 over C&D. Dinaria des Obeaux looked one of the best seen in this division this season when routing her rivals at Cork in December; she’s well worth her place in this Grade 1.
Willie Mullins has farmed the Deloitte in recent seasons and he can add another success with Bacardys. After falling on his hurdling debut at Cork, Bacardys made amends when winning here last time (still room for improvement in his jumping); he can improve as his stamina is drawn out. Stablemate Bunk Off Early was fairly useful on the Flat for Andrew Oliver and looks an exciting recruit to hurdling, having made a successful debut over timber in taking fashion over 2m here in December, while fellow Closutton resident Saturnas was second to Airlie Beach in the Grade 1 Royal Bond in December before landing a race at the same level over 2m here last time. Barra looks the pick of the Gordon Elliott-trained runners.
Bellshill followed up his Gowran chasing debut success with a Grade 2 win at Limerick in December and it’s already hard to dispute his credentials as a potential Grade 1 winner over fences. He can live up to that billing with victory in the Flogas, before heading to Cheltenham. Stablemate Bleu Et Rouge only got as far as the second last time, but this trip looks ideal considering the way he stayed on when winning on his chasing debut over 19f here in December. He won the Deloitte on this card 12 months ago. Our Duke showed plenty of resolution to fend off Coney Island in the Topaz (3m) here last time, while Balko des Flos should be more suited by this trip, having failed to stay at Naas last month. Disko and A Toi Phil give Gigginstown a strong team of entries.”