February 3rd 4th Weekend Review

Tuesday February 6th 6.30pm

Fabulous weekend of NH horse racing. Real quality. That is of course at Leopardstown and the inaugural Dublin of Festival. “The Dublin Racing Festival has been a massive success. I’m already looking forward to next year.” Ben Linfoot sportinglife.com

ATR’s Kevin Blake nailed it “…….passionate racing fans not just from Ireland, but from all over Great Britain and even further afield came to Leopardstown in their droves to support the meeting. It is those racegoers that create the atmosphere, flooding to the parade ring and responding in a knowledgeable and passionate manner to the action on the track. It was their presence that ensured a vibe and energy at the Dublin Racing Festival that would be the envy of all but a couple of couple of top-class race meetings under either code in Europe. Those that attended were treated to a special two days of National Hunt racing. With the vast majority of Irish-trained stars in each division turning up to stake their claims for glory, what the meeting produced was an array of informative, dramatic and classy action that proved to be the perfect antidote to the series of phony wars we have become so accustomed to in the months leading up to the Cheltenham Festival in recent years.” Here’s my take on two excellent days and the UK fare relevant to Cheltenham.

 

Leopardstown Saturday

1.10 2m 6f Novice Hurdle G1 Clock suggests they didn’t go fast enough up front and the heavily punted Fabulous Saga was over the top/ground too quick/had an off day because he went out like a light from the final bend and it was a three furlong burn up. Probably a sub-standard Grade 1 with the flat-bred Tower Bridge coming out on top. Probably go for the Ballymore and take on Samcro! Jetz could be interesting in a Cheltenham handicap 2m 4f+ as he didn’t get the clearest run here. Most of the others want a fence and deeper ground.

1.45 2m Dublin Chase G2 Yorkhill has an issue whether it’s physical and or mental and Closutton knows he has. As soon as he reached the parade ring he drifted like a barge! His Cheltenham record is impeccable but I’m not sure even Willie Mullins can get him there this year! In Irish racing this division is probably the most shallow in quality as Gigginstown have no interest over two miles, however in Min Ireland have a serious player and he will try to put the record straight with Altior in the QMCC having followed Altior up the hill in that ridiculously strong Supreme Hurdle of 2016.

Two points to note. This division needs Special Tiara to act as the hare and the vibes suggest that Douvan will be back this season, Cheltenham or Punchestown?

2.20 2m 1f Arkle Novice Chase Grade 1 Footpad and Petit Mouchoir were excellent and it looks like the four leading protagonists in Cheltenham’s 2018 Arkle will have all taken part in last year’s Champion Hurdle, Petit Mouchoir (3rd 6/1), Footpad (4th 14/1), Sceau Royal (6th 25/1) and Brain Power (9th 13/2). The Souede and Munir pair of Footpad and Sceau Royal are the best jumpers of the quartet whereas the other two have the better flat speed. Footpad has done nothing wrong this season but Petit Mouchoir produced enough on Saturday to suggest it could be a lot closer come March 13th at Cheltenham.  Of the other three in the Leopardstown race, Any Second Now did enough to suggest he was worth a speculative NRNB punt in the Grand Annual, McManus owned with Grade 1 novice form and likewise Tycoon Prince, who took a tired fall at the last, is very much on my 2m 4f handicap chase radar.

2.55 2m 1f 0-150 Grade B Handicap Chase Patricks Park was a comfortable winner for Willie Mullins and Racheal Blackmore off OR123 and the handicapper will probably have to put him up at least 10lbs to get a run at Cheltenham. (Stop Press-Which is exactly what has happened!) Three Stars ran in the Arkle at Cheltenham last year, is a G3 winner and ran here off OR137. Grand Annual or Brown Advisory Plate? Tully East OR144, already a Cheltenham Festival winner, has to go high on the Brown Advisory Plate short list after this run. Townshend OR145 was outpaced but stayed on and Some Plan OR143 was going well when coming down two out.

3.30 2m Irish Champion Hurdle G1 I can’t wait to see what the handicapper makes of this race! If Faugheen was mine I’m not sure I would be too disappointed. He’s a 10yo, it’s a step in the right direction, he’s been outstayed by younger legs, a positively ridden Supasundae is at the top of his game. Faugheens hurdling was spot on and he’s comfortably seen the rest off, I wouldn’t hesitate going for the Champion hurdle. The course, the crowd, the weather, Ruby Walsh could all bring about further improvement! I would be more concerned if I owned Melon or especially Defi du Seuil! Surely both will now be aimed at a novice chasing campaign next season.

4.05 2m Coral handicap hurdle 0-150 Grade B The first four carried 10st 2lbs or less, two for JP McManus and two for Willie Mullins! The third, Grand Partner, and the fifth, Tudor City, love the C&D but the 1st, Off You Go OR123, the second Deal D’Estruval OR127, and the fourth Makitorix OR128 were certainly “unexposed”! The new marks are eagerly awaited.

Deal D’Estruval could be a Coral Cup horse at Cheltenham? Likewise there is a big pot in Makitorix who came the longest way round into the straight and stayed on strongly. Bleu Berry didn’t try a yard. First run for 181 days off OR142!

Agent Boru ran an odd race. In the van early, dropped back, nothing finished as strongly. May need to keep onside OR122.

4.40 2m Goffs Future Stars Bumper G2 This is as good as it gets for me. The winner, Blackbow, hugely impressive as was the flat-bred runner up Rhinestone and I would expect both to line up at Cheltenham on the Wednesday.

Rapid Escape was disappointing, Dunvegan was immature and too keen but I will stand by what I wrote in the preview for this race, “Make sure all the horses above are in your tracker and probably keep them there for the next five years! These are Championship, Festival winning types.”

 

Leopardstown Sunday

12.40 2m 2f Mares Handicap Hurdle Grade B Won comfortably by Alletrix who made every yard just eight days after chasing home Laurina in the G3 Solerina at Fairyhouse. Strongly fancied by the yard, trainer Jessica Harrington said before the race “I’m going to run her after a great effort in Fairyhouse last week and Robbie is going to put up 2lbs over weight. She’s rated 116 in this race and if I run her in a Handicap later on, she competes off her new mark of 125, so the overweight makes no difference as she’s actually still ‘well in’. I’d rather have Robbie ride as he knows her and she arrives here having done absolutely nothing since last week.” In doing so Alletrix paid her conqueror, Laurina, a huge compliment and I’ve just watched that Fairyhouse race and Laurina may not be the slickest hurdler but she has plenty of size about her and she just sprinted away from that G3 field and is the best novice mare I’ve seen this season!!!

1.15 2m Spring 4yo hurdle G1 Typical of the juvenile scene you’re the best until something better comes along and it was no surprise to me that Mr Adjudicator and Farclas both left Espoir D’Allen behind off the final bend and it wouldn’t surprise me if their respective trainers, Messrs Mullins and Elliott, both have something at home that is better still! In Mullins case it’s Stormy Ireland, a filly the trainer can’t stop raving about and Elliott has nothing else entered in the Triumph but I keep hearing good things about Ringleader and Fools and Kings!

1.50 2m Deloitte Novice Hurdle G1 Samcro. It is as simple as that. I admit to wanting to take him on over the minimum trip but he had this lot for breakfast! Paloma Blue did his best to give him a race but was legless by the last and it was left to Duc de Genievres, who will surely benefit stepping up in trip, to forlornly chase the latest Irish jet home. The Future Stars race at Leopardstown was totally rubbished with the likes of Sharjah, Real Steel & Whiskey Sour in another county!

2.25 3m Handicap Hurdle 0-150 Grade B Another race where the handicappers reaction will be of interest. Total Recall was 31lb better off over hurdles and galloped this lot into the ground. The next three home all performed with credit, Oscar Knight (who always hints at being well handicapped), Flawless Escape (an improving novice), Delta Work (consistent and may well have a similar race within his scope) but for me the eye-catcher was the fifth horse, A Great View. The mount of the hapless Barry Geraghty looked like he was ridden with another day in mind and seeing he is already qualified for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham this one doesn’t look rocket science! However off OR131 he is going to struggle to get in without a little assistance from Phil Smith.

3.00 2m 5f Flogas Novice Chase G1 It doesn’t get much than this and I’ll be surprised if you get a deeper novice chase than this all season. The Storyteller was seventh and only 7L behind the winner! So who were The Magnificent Seven?

Monalee Made every yard and outstayed them. Noel Fehily (his Cheltenham jockey as Davy Russell committed to main rival Presenting Percy) got Monalee into a super rhythm and didn’t miss a beat. Serious RSA contender.

Al Boum Photo Great run and he’ll get further. As for the future I expect the RSA (4 miler possibly) will be his next start but I just wonder if Mullins has one eye on the irish National on April 2nd as he needs to pick up prize money in that event to keep Elliott in his sights and his staying novices are perhaps his best hope?

Invitation Only Only beaten in the last 100 yards and surely this fine stamp of a horse is the Mullins JLT No 1 contender?

Dounikos Suggested here that he may well have given Al Boum Photo a serious race in the Limerick G2 that he was handed when that rival fell at the last. Just when you’ve had enough of Mullins bingo let’s try Gigginstown lotto? Petit Mouchoir for the Arkle, Dounikos or Tombstone for the JLT if anything, Shattered Love for the RSA? However the 4m NH Chase could be the ideal fit for Dounikos. He won his maiden hurdle over 2m 7f at Thurles and that suggests that stamina is his strong suit and he certainly kept on here.

Snow Falcon Maybe this is exactly what he is. G2/3 chaser, 2m 4f-2m 6f. Does he truly get 3m? Would good ground help?

Tombstone I just don’t know? Always had my doubts whether he puts it all in. He was of course fourth in THAT 2016 Supreme novice hurdle. 2m 4f looks his best trip and probably doesn’t win above G3. However if he landed a really big pot I would not be surprised but on balance I’ll take Tombstone on.

The Storyteller Ran here off OR147 and like Snow Falcon and Tombstone maybe this is as good as he is but I would love to see him line up in the Brown Advisory Plate off that mark with Jack Kennedy in the saddle!

Of the rest, Sutton Place was never travelling, mind you Barry Geraghty could probably get a Rolls Royce to stall the way he is riding at the moment! Rathvinden took a clumsy tumble two out when they turned the heat up and I could see Willie Mullins giving him an Irish National entry!

3.35 3m Irish Gold Cup G1 Fabulous race with a fabulous back story even if Edwulf chinning Outlander was personally financially painful! Perhaps that is only half the story as surely the trophy had Kiltullagh Vic’s name on until his last fence departure and that would have been a Grade 1 victory on only his third fencing start under rules!

Djakadam and Outlander were the leading pair until turning for home when Outlander went on but was immediately joined by a smooth travelling Killultagh Vic with edwulf a couple lengths behind. KV’s fall left Outlander in front with Edwulf getting up on the run in. Djakadam plodded on for third and his best chance of victory at Cheltenham would surely be in the Ryanair where he would probably re-oppose a non-staying Valseur Lido. I would love to see Alpha des Obeaux in the Ultima off top weight as I think Gigginstown will go to the Cheltenham Gold cup with Road to Respect, outlander and possibly Disko.

Our Duke travelled OK-ish but an error three out, as the pace increased, did for him although he plodded on for fourth. Plenty of work to be done if he is to be competitive at Cheltenham and as he chose not to come last year maybe they will miss it again, give the horse time and get him spot on for Punchestown? Anibale Fly and Mala Beach are yet to step up from handicaps to Graded company. If I thought he would complete Minella Rocco is a Grand National horse. I would be amazed if he made the frame in this year’s Gold Cup!

4.10 2m 5f Handicap Chase Grade B Looked like the excellent JJ Slevin had nicked another one for JP O’Brien when kicking off the final bend on Vieux Morvan but was mown down by a strong finishing The Last Goodbye with the pair well clear. Neither would look out of place in the Brown Advisory Plate.

Harry Fry’s entry Hells Kitchen disappointed by refusing to settle, again. Maybe he needs two miles (Grand Annual) and just let rip or perhaps replace Barry Geraghty with a jockey!? Couple of interest were the Mullins/Munir & Souede Polidam who Noel Fehily brought from a long way back. Which race at Cheltenham he lines up in is a riddle. The Irish handic Sandown

apper has dropped him a pound to OR145 which could bring the Kim Muir into play if the English handicapper plays ball? The other was Jett who took time to settle in the hands of Robbie Power, moved into contention despite the attention of a loose horse, every chance turning for home but the early exertions told. His trainer Jessica Harrington said in her Unibet blog on Saturday “He’s another of mine who will love the good ground and he doesn’t have a bad weight either. We’ve been running him over 2m but this trip isn’t a problem as he’s won over it before and his experience will count for plenty here.” The handicapper has kindly dropped him two pounds to an attractive OR140 and will be a punting proposition as soon as he gets Good going. Yet to race outside of Ireland.

4.40 2m Mares bumper G2 Looked a Mullins benefit although a minor surprise with the little skinny one, Relegate (Katie Walsh), beating the big, scopey one, Colreevy (Patrick Mullins) and Getaway Katie Mai splitting the pair. Relegate could go for the Mares bumpers at Sandown and then Aintree.

 

Meanwhile back in Blighty!

Saturday Sandown 12.40 2m Novice Hurdle C3 An interesting novice hurdle to kick the afternoon off with. Ainchea is a future chaser but treats his hurdles with contempt and his fall at the last wasn’t his first error. Countister was dwarfed by Ainchea and the mare may well have won anyway but she will struggle to match Laurina in the Trull House mares novice at Cheltenham. The third horse, Arthington, is big on my handicap radar. Gladly he remains on OR137 and his form behind Twobeelucky at Cheltenham reads well and with the stable jockey claiming five pounds I think he could have a good ground, decent 2m pot within his scope.

Saturday Sandown 1.50 2m Contenders Hurdle Listed Buveur D’Air paid £17K for a schooling hurdle, although Geraghty almost cocked it up! No slicker hurdler in training. Deserved favourite for Champion Hurdle.

Saturday Sandown 2.25 2m 4f Scilly Isles Novices Chase G1 Terrefort just held off Cyrname in this G1 2m 4f novice chase and both will surely be JLT bound. The winner is not very big but is very neat at his fences and Cyrname loves a scrap but neither are likely to make the winners enclosure. The third home, No Comment, is of definite interest. He is JP McManus’s only entry in the 4m NH chase at Cheltenham. This horse is a son of Kayf Tara has only run over 3m twice, both times second, both times staying on and one of them was a G3 handicap hurdle.

Tizzard has a lot of explaining to do about his campaigning of Western Approach and the rain had got into the ground and was too soft for Kallondra.

Saturday Sandown 3.00 2m 7f Handicap Hurdle Grade B A real slog won by a giant horse in Topofthegame who is now up to OR150 over hurdles and surely his next visit to the winners enclosure will be chasing. Golan Venture has been well campaigned by Phil Middleton and may have not peaked yet on OR141. Better ground would help Melrose Boy and OR137 surely isn’t the ceiling of his talent.

Saturday Wetherby 2.40 3m Towtown Novices Chase 3m A tough jumping test on Heavy ground and Ballyoptic battled well to beat Vintage Clouds and Shades of Midnight. The ground did for Captain Chaos and Ami Desbois. Don’t think the race will have any Cheltenham influence but could be for next season’s winter staying chases. For a novice Vintage Clouds has been aggressively campaigned having already run in the Scottish and Welsh National’s.

Saturday Musselburgh 1.30 2m 4f Scottish Future Champions novice Chase C3 There may not be a lot of Barney Dwan but he is nimble at his fences and in March 2016 he won The EBF hurdle final at Sandown, last March he was second to Presenting Percy in the Pertemps Final off OR143 and with the handicapper amazingly dropping him two pounds for this win he will supposedly go to the 2m 5f novices handicap chase that closes day 1, again off OR143! The two that fell independently three out, Keeper Hill and Peter the Mayo Man, both look big and scopey and could well re-oppose the winner at Cheltenham.

Sunday Musselburgh 1.25 2m Juvenile Hurdle Listed We have a Dream cemented his place in the Triumph hurdle eventually coming clear of a back to form, slick jumping who looks a lively Fred Winter candidate.

Sunday Musselburgh 2.00 Supreme Scottish Trial Novices Hurdle 2m an upset here with the odds on Claimantakinforgan trained by Nicky Henderson turned over by the North’s top novice Beyond the Clouds, returning from an 88 day lay-off and an improving Simply the Betts. Connections of the winner are hinting at the Premier hurdle at Kelso and then an Aintree handicap whilst the second could be an interesting handicap proposition off a mark in the mid 130’s in something like the Imperial Cup? Meanwhile it’s back to the drawing board for Team Seven Barrows and their Supreme plans.

Sunday Musselburgh 2.35 Alfred Bartlett Scottish Novice Hurdle Trial 3m C2 Kim Baileys improving Red River got the better of Henderson’s very green Mr Whipped in receipt of three pounds. Both could go to the real thing at Cheltenham but will struggle against the likes of Cracking Smart and Santini.

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Dublin Festival of Racing (Part II)

Posted Friday February 2nd 4.15pm

Well I’m enjoying this meeting already and it hasn’t even started. Doing the research for these championship races has been time well spent, I feel right on top of the Irish form whether my Conclusions are right or not!

Sadly the clock has beaten me for in depth analysis of the handicaps, although there are three selections below, and I will have to leave the mares contests up to you. I need to move on to the weekends action in the UK!

Hope you all enjoy the blog, both parts, the Leopardstown meeting, both days and of course, Be Lucky!

 

Star Selections (16 stars)

Saturday 1.10             Carter Mackay                       Two star** win @ 4/1 PP

Saturday 2.55             Bel Ami de Sivola                   One star* each way @ 12/1 Coral

Saturday 4.05             Mind’s Eye                              One star* each way @ 10/1 Coral + Ladbrokes

Saturday 4.40             Dunvegan                                One star* each way @ 14/1 online 12/1 High Street

Sunday 1.15                Mr Adjudicator                       One Star* win @ 5/1 Ladbrokes 9/2 general

Sunday 1.50                Paloma Blue                           One star* each way @ 25/1 WH

Sunday 3.00                The Storyteller                       One star* each way @ 25/1 Bet 365 16/1 BF

Sunday 3.35                Outlander                               Two star** win @ 7/1 WH

Sunday 4.10                Vieux Morvan                         One Star* win @ 8/1 Coral

 

Cheltenham

Festival Bumper         Hollowgraphic            Two star** win @ 6/1 NRNB PP

 

 

Saturday

4.40 Goffs Future Stars 2m Bumper G2

Best bumper so far this season either side of the Irish Sea. Willie Mullins sends Hollowgraphic straight to Cheltenham, supposedly, but is still double handed here, as is Gordon Elliott, as is Noel Meade.

Minella Encore Impressive at Leopardstown in the C1 bumper, making all and holding off The Gunner Murphy (McManus and O’Brien) and Daly Tiger (Gigginstown and Meade). Strong form. Katie Walsh rides here and he has to give weight to the whole field.

Blackbow Patrick Mullins chooses to ride Blackbow. This horse was always going to be interesting because Mullins/Kirk paid big money for an English PtP winner from Tom Lacey. Fine stamp of a horse who also won at Leopardstown, he travelled strongly before outstaying the much touted The Holy One for the Harringtons and the eye-catching Ballyneety (McManus/O’Brien).

Trainer Says: “We were very impressed with him at Christmas and he looks a likely candidate for the Grade 2 bumper at Leopardstown.”

Rapid Escape Won all three of his bumper starts this season (Elliott/Gigginstown), beat Dunvegan by 1¼L at Down Royal, beat The Holy One by 4L and then a Listed contest at Navan beating the mare Lady Ischia. Classy son of Doyen who looks more of an athlete than a prospective chaser. Lisa O’Neill rides and Elliott is as bullish about this fellow as Mullins is about Hollowgraphic.

Empire Burleque Not seen for almost a year when he won at Fairyhouse when Jamie Codd (Elliott/Gigginstown), rode them to sleep and then outsprinted the much touted Fulham Road (Ricci/Mullins). Tough ask here but open to improvement, cost £92K and he is bred to win a Derby being by Cape Cross out of a Galileo mare!

Brace Yourself On Boxing Day recent mum Nina Carberry made her way to Down Royal and Brace Yourself (Patricia Hunt/Meade) hacked up by 24L from Dorydalis (Elliott/Gigginstown). Meade has been making all the right noises.

Trainer says:We were delighted with him when he won in Down Royal. They went hard in front and that seemed to suit our lad and he went further and further away in the straight. Nina kept him out wide on the better ground as well and that may have helped him. We only bought him at the back end and we didn’t really know a great deal about him before he ran – we knew he was a nice horse but we hadn’t drilled him for Down Royal. The plan now is that he’ll go for the good bumper at Leopardstown next weekend. It still wasn’t a big surprise that he won in the north, as we’ve liked him since he arrived.

Warren Ewing who had him before is of the view that he wants better ground but he does seem to handle soft ground pretty well. He worked well on Tuesday and he seems to be in good shape. He has filled out a good bit since Christmas and he will stay in bumpers this spring. If he went and won at Leopardstown, we’ll have to look at Cheltenham – that would be the dream, but we’ll have to see how next weekend goes first.”

Village Mystic Not seen for two years when he (Elliott/Gigginstown), beat Jack Dillinger by 4L. He has since moved from Mullins to Meade.

Trainer says: “He won a bumper for Willie and he looks a nice horse. There is a chance that he might run in the Grade 2 bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival next weekend. We’ll see how this week goes and I’ve been pretty happy with him.”

Dunvegan Only a length off Rapid Escape, then stuffed 12L by Hollowgraphic and Patrick Fahy’s son of Le Havre won at the third time of asking at Fairyhouse.

Rhinestone JP’s only runner and another bred for a Flat Classic being by Montjeu, second to Athenian (Meade/Gigginstown) on debut he was a cosy winner at Thurles beating a Mullins hotpot mare, Simona Sancta.

Trainer says: He won very well at Thurles and he’ll go to Leopardstown for the Grade 2 bumper there next month. There is a chance that he could be a Cheltenham Bumper horse if he managed to win the next day. We’ll step him back into full work now – he has been doing gentle canters since he won.

 

Conclusion Make sure all the horses above are in your tracker and probably keep them there for the next five years! These are Championship, Festival winning types. As for this race Rapid Escape is a worthy favourite but too skinny at 6/4. I’m keen on an improving Dunvegan each way at around 12/1 but I’m backing Hollowgraphic for the Cheltenham bumper, two star** win @ 6/1 NRNB PP 7/1 general now, as a solid run here from Dunvegan will give that horses form a boost.

 

Sunday

1.15 Spring 4yo hurdle G1 2m

Espoir D’Allen (McManus/Cromwell) has the best Juvenile form in Ireland and comfortably holds Mitchouka (Elliott/Gigginstown) and he also beat Farclas (Elliott/Gigginstown). However Farclas was on hurdling debut and has only just over a length to find but is 3lb worse off. Sadly stunning debut winning mare Stormy Ireland (Mullins) doesn’t line up with the yard relying on the stylish Mr Adjudicator who did little wrong in winning his only start to date, open to improvement and at around 5/1 I’m having a dabble.

This division is dominated by Nicky Henderson with Apple’s Shakira (McManus), but she has Mares and Supreme mutterings and We Have a Dream (Munir & Souede). Hopefully the winner here could provide a worthwhile contender.

 

1.50 Deloitte 2m G1 Novice Hurdle

Big Cheltenham trial in the past but is now run over two furlongs shorter and of all the novice divisions the two mile looks the weakest especially with Samcro, Next Destinstion and On The Blind Side being put forward for the intermediate Ballymore. But shock, horror Samcro lines up here whilst there is no Mengli Khan and as I think Samcro will get done for toe at Cheltenham I’ve got to take him on here!

The Future Champions novice hurdle at Leopardstown was a comedy of errors with Mengli Khan jumping a wing three out, then a never travelling Real Steel and an on the bridle Sharjah both falling independently at the last leaving Whiskey Sour to come from way back to collect the prize. Trainer Says: Both Sharjah and Real Steel will run in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown as I think they could both do with more experience. They were unlucky with what happened them last time, but they were both fine after it. Hopefully the sun won’t be out for the Deloitte!

It would be hard to back any of those three here and perhaps Willy Mullins has more of a chance with his fourth entry, Duc de Genievres, who was an eye catching third behind Next Destination in a G1 on debut for the yard at Naas. However the trainer said “he would go up in trip” so a drop to two miles is confusing. Trainer Says: He ran very well at Naas. That was only the second run of his life and he should improve from it. He travelled well through the race and I’m not sure which way I’m going to go with him in terms of trip. It might be too tough an ask for him to drop to two miles and take on sharper horses. He looked like he should be able to do it based on the last day, but that was over a longer trip off a steady enough pace. Moving up a gear at championship pace will be a different story, so he might be as well off sticking to longer trips.”

I am taking an each way chance with Paloma Blue who is getting his act together over hurdles after finishing second to the ill-fated Fayonagh in the G1 bumper at Punchestown. Third on debut to Next Destination, second beaten a head by Spades are Trumps and then won over this C&D beating Impact Factor having travelled, jumped and quickened.

Trainer Says: He’ll run in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday. We were delighted with the way he won at Leopardstown last time, he put up a nice performance. This is obviously a big step up in class for him, but we’ll know where we are going with him after this.

 

3.00 Flogas Novices Chase G1 2m 6f

Willie Mullins saddles five of the eleven starters, Gordon Elliott four and one each for Henry de Bromhead and Noel Meade. Two in the Gigginstown maroon, two in JP’s yellow and green hoops but otherwise seven other owners!

The Closutton Massive

Invitation Only Townend rides which could “suggest” he’s team captain. Leading fancy for the JLT at Cheltenham and after falling on debut in a race won by Monalee he has won two since including a G3 last time. Owned by the Wylies.

Al Boum Photo David Mullins rides. Won well on debut beating Tycoon Prince at Naas before falling at the last in a Limerick G3 when seemingly having the race at his mercy. G2 winning hurdler. Might he be a better horse on deep winter ground?

Bon Papa Won over 2m on chasing debut then a non-staying third to Shattered Love in the 3m G1 Neville Hotels at Leopardstown over Christmas. Mark Walsh rides.

Koshari Robbie Power dons the Ricci silks and Koshari has only 2½L to find with invitation Only having followed him home in the G3 at Punchestown. Won on chasing debut at Thurles.

Rathvinden Patrick Mullins partners this busy boy who has been on the go since last May. This will be his tenth run over fences and he has won four of them including a G3 at Tipperary. Unluckily brought down by the fall of Monalee last time he continues to catch up for lost time having not run between March 2014 and December 2016 having injured himself when third to Faugheen in the Neptune at the Festival

The Elliott Army

Dounikos Won his two starts over fences without getting rave reviews. Beat easy Thystes winner, Monbeg Notorious, on debut at Galway and was then the beneficiary of Al Boum Photo’s fall at Limerick when beating stablemate Tombstone. Jack Kennedy rides for Gigginstown.

Sutton Place Comfortably beat Kemboy on chasing debut and this Grade 2 winning hurdler (twice) will have the services of Barry Geraghty as he looks JP’s best chance.

The Storyteller Regulars will know I am a huge fan of this horse. Looking good when brushing aside Sutton Manor and LiveLoveLaugh on chasing debut, a shuddering error three out put paid to his chances behind Invitation Only but he kept on again and was closing come the line. Keith Donoghue should enjoy the ride as this horse has gears!

Tombstone He’s a disappointment, he’s a rogue, he’s classy. Since finishing fourth to Altior in THAT Supreme hurdle, too often the bridesmaid and only Tombstone himself really knows if he is putting it all in!

Henry de Bromhead’s Monalee is many peoples idea of the RSA winner next month but he has a bit to prove having taken a novice fall last time out. The Alfred Bartlett runner up to Penhill is probably a better horse over 3m but the booking of Noel Fehily suggests they mean business. Trainer Says: He’s entered in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday and the intention is to run. He got a horrible fall and then a good kicking at Leopardstown last time, but he’s seems OK now, so hopefully he’ll acquit himself well.

Noel Meade has been telling everyone who’ll listen that he expects a big run from his Snow Falcon and is probably his best chance of success at the inaugural Dublin Festival of Racing. Second to Mossback, third to Death Duty, he got his head in front at Leopardstown beating Wishmoor. A Grade 1 staying hurdler he has been to all the top gigs but doesn’t win too many. Lot of miles on the clock for an 8yo novice chaser. Trainer Says: “He’ll go for the Flogas Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival. Hopefully he’ll perform well enough there to go to Cheltenham and I would have thought that the RSA Chase would be his race. He is in super form. We were confident about his chances the last day even before the other horses fell – he jumped great and he has come out of that race in very good form. He goes on nearly any ground. The one mistake that I made last year was bringing him to Newmarket for the Cesarewitch but, fair play to Paul Hanagan, he looked after him when he knew the ground was too quick for him. He just wasn’t letting himself down that day and we had a horse afterwards which was great. I’m really looking forward to running him at Leopardstown.”

 

Conclusion They have all got to get round first, not something they have all managed in the past. Such a strong race with so much depth but as I didn’t think I would ever get the chance again to back my selection at double figure prices it has to be The Storyteller each way.

 

3.35 Irish Gold Cup G1 3m

Just when you thought that this sumptuously iced, Bake Off winning, cake of a meeting couldn’t get any better here is some cherry to top it off! As I am running out of time I am going to cut and paste from a previous blog when I looked at the Cheltenham Gold Cup from an Ante Post perspective five weeks ago.

Our Duke Chose to miss Cheltenham last season and it wouldn’t surprise me if they did so again. Built his reputation by destroying the field from the front in the Irish National off OR153. Currently on the easy list having scoped badly after disappointing behind Outlander at Down Royal but reportedly getting there. I’d like to see some form against the big boys not Bless my Wings!

Djakadam He looks like a burnt out wreck of the horse that stormed to victory in that foggy Thyestes Chase three years ago! The formbook says Sizing John has his number. Does he stay 3m 2f? Does he get up that Cheltenham hill? Both of his last two Grade 1 victories were over 2m4f at Punchestown and perhaps that C&D are his best chance of returning to the winner’s enclosure? However if there is one trainer that could wave his magic wand and freshen this horse up it is the wizard, Willie Mullins. If Djakadam does step back in trip for the RyanAir, Ruby Walsh’s choice of ride in the Gold Cup would be interesting!

Minella Rocco Second in last season’s Gold Cup staying on strongly. Most recently fourth in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown when done for toe but the trainer, Jonjo O’Neill, suggested he was going down the handicap route. Indeed ever since he won the 4m NH chase at the Festival in 2016 he has looked a Grand National winner in waiting and I am of the opinion that like Native River he would be a National horse winning a Gold Cup. Niggly concern that O’Neill has a habit of getting horses to peak for four days every March.

Outlander Splendid Gigginstown owned Grade 1 winning yardstick. Goes to all the big gigs, frequently places but the formbook suggests he is well held by Road to Respect.

Valseur Lido A top grade novice when with Willy Mullins winning Grade 1 chases at 2m4f and 3m1f and was third in the 2015 JLT to Vautour and not far away when falling in the King George when Cue Card pipped Vautour. Transferred to Henry de Bromhead he won the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal and was fourth to Outlander in the 2016 Lexus chase. He was then off the course for a year, on the home gallops he fractured a cannon bone that required surgery, before running a promising fifth under the intelligent guidance of Noel Fehily, an eye catching booking, in what had now become the Christmas chase at Leopardstown over 3m1f. Interesting.

Anibale Fly Hosed up in the Grade B 3m Paddy Power handicap chase at Leopardstowns Winter festival. Greater racing minds than mine suggested trainer Tony Martin may have been “hiding his light under a bushel” by campaigning him over too short a trip but he had no problem getting three miles and his official mark rose eleven pounds from OR148 to OR159. Won his bumpers on heavy ground and the only time he has run on Good ground was when sent off 3/1F for the 2016 Kauto Star novice chase at Kempton and he didn’t go a yard, this is the race that Might Bite had in the bag but fell at the last! Recently his trainer said “After the Leopardstown win you’d imagine he could be a Grand National type.” The Irish Gold Cup on February 4th seems his next target. Owner JP McManus also has Coney Island and Minella Rocco who would seem the more likely Cheltenham Gold Cup candidates. Anibale Fly is a progressive, classy 8yo. As for Grand Nationals, could be Irish 2018, Aintree 2019?

Killtulagh Vic For me this was the training performance of the Christmas/New Year racing with massive credit going also Colm McBratney who nursed him back. He hardly jumped a flight at Punchestown but ran away from the likes of Ex Patriot, Tigris River and Ivanovich Gorbatov. Team Mullins has suggested he will be seen next in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park. If he makes Cheltenham this March the Ryanair would seem the logical race but this is Willy Mullins. Quoted for the Stayers hurdle but I wouldn’t rule out a Blue Riband appearance nor for that matter top weight in the Byrne Plate!

Alpha Des Obeaux Fourth to Might Bite in the 2017 RSA, second to Total Recall in the Munster National conceding sixteen pounds he is somewhat in limbo. If he does run at Cheltenham this March personally I would love see him carry close to top weight in that Tuesday 3m Ultima handicap but I fear they will throw him at the RyanAir chase as he won the Clonmel Oils chase this season over a similar trip.

 

Conclusion Personally pleased that Road to Respect chose to swerve this race to go to Cheltenham a fresh horse on his favoured spring ground, I think the winner will come from those that finished behind him in the Christmas Chase. Valseur Lido has his second run back after a year off, so will he ‘bounce’ or show improvement? Our Duke returns from injury and is meant to be working the place down. However I am going for Outlander, a three time G1 winner, C&D winner and whose form figures at Leopardstown are 11113, ridden here by Jack Kennedy. I think this is his Gold Cup.

Dublin Festival Of Racing Overview

“It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma…”

Originally said by Churchill in 1939 to describe the actions of Russia, more recently re-cycled by Tom Segal when talking about betting at York but wholly appropriate to the inaugural Dublin Festival of Racing next Saturday and Sunday!

Two days of fantastic National Hunt racing of the highest calibre with more sub-plots than a Stoppard play. In just about every race you will be asking the same questions as you to try to find the winner on the day.

Is THIS race the plan or is this a Festival (Cheltenham, Aintree, Fairyhouse or Punchestown) prep race?

Who is in the saddle? First, second or third string?

Mullins v Elliott? Mullins needs to close the gap on his rival and the difference is measured in Euros won.

Who ISN’T here? Who represents their form?

Where it is being held?

Leopardstown. Described by the Racing Post as a “Left-handed, flat, galloping track with 3f run-in. Circuit 1m6f.” The second last on both the hurdle and the chase course is halfway round the final bend and there is a sharp turn into the home straight and just one obstacle in the home straight. This course is where Mengli Khan choose to jump through a wing, they have “island” obstacles which makes jumping straight a major plus. Are you listening Yorkhill?

The going is currently Soft on the hurdle track and Soft, Yielding in places (that’s quicker) on the Chase course and it doesn’t look like getting any slower.

OMG, “there are two elephants in the room”.

The first is the Cheltenham Festival. Many this side of the Irish Sea will look at these fourteen races as trials for THE Festival in March, however the Irish, especially those in authority are very keen to promote the Dublin Festival Of Racing as a stand-alone event.

The second is Ruby Walsh. Ireland’s senior member of the weighing room is still on the side-lines with his broken leg. Willy Mullins will definitely miss him, especially on his big guns who may have one or two quirks. Paul Townend is an able deputy, David Mullins rides the second strings with Ms Katie Walsh getting the third choice, Danny Mullins still absent with a wrist injury. Where mob handed in the handicaps some lesser known riders get their big chance. However Ruby Walsh will most noticeably be missed when the tapes go up, as at these bigger meetings Irish jockeys are used to dancing to his tune! Davy Russell would be the obvious conductor but he prefers a more stalking role so look out for two of the young guns to take a small field championship race by the scruff of the neck. Jack Kennedy, because he may well have the horse to do it and David Mullins because he can! On Day One alone David Mullins gets to ride Carter McKay, Min, Demi Sang and Melon! That’s a possible Lucky 15 to kick off with.

Pigeon-holing could be dangerous!

If there is one thing I have learned about Irish racing in the last few seasons is don’t pigeon hole! Many Irish horses are from the PtP circuit where they race over 3m and most decent horses stay that far, just find their “best” trip. Just because they won their last two races on Heavy ground doesn’t mean they won’t perform on better ground. Don’t “assume” from jockey bookings that it is first and second string (with maybe the exception of Ruby Walsh).

Mullins v Elliott

Gordon Elliott will try to win everything. Willie Mullins will be more tactical and don’t tell me there won’t be team orders. Pacemakers, spoilers, ridden to maximise place prize money, I expect to see all of them from Team Mullins! Hardly riding “on merit”!

Day 1 Saturday February 3rd

1.10 2m 6f Novice Hurdle

Bombshell here. No Samcro here, he runs in the 2m Deloitte novice hurdle tomorrow instead, although connections say the Ballymore (2m5f) is still the Cheltenham target. Samcro beat Jetz by 12L on hurdling debut.

Instead Elliott gives Russell the leg up on Dortmund Park who could be Alfred Bartlett bound as in winning his last two races over hurdles this €230K French bred gelding has suggested stamina is his forte. Similar could be said of Fabulous Saga on whom Willie Mullins puts Paul Townend, a career record of four from six and his last two wins over 3m at G3/G2 level. Very solid form. David Mullins rides Carter McKay who was favourite for the Cheltenham Bumper last season, once Getabird was an absentee, until usurped on the day,. Team Closutton always suggested that he was a stayer and he did well to be third to Getabird in the G1 2m Moscow Flyer at Punchestown. I can see David Mullins riding him aggressively and definite improvement going up five furlongs in trip.

The other four will all need to improve but each of their trainers thinks they will and has spoken to the press!

Henry de Bromhead on Dicey O’Reilly “We were quite disappointed with his seasonal reappearance at Cork, so we were delighted to see him bounce back and win at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting and he seems in great form since then. The plan is to run him in the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday. This is a step up in trip for him and he obviously needs to improve, but we’ll see what happens.”

Jessica Harrington on Jetz@paul0boyle10 How highly do you rate JETZ? If he can win a Graded Hurdle this year I would be absolutely delighted but he will make a great chaser and all his family improve with age so I’m very excited about the future, especially when he gets some better ground.”

Noel Meade on Moyross “I was very disappointed with him at Naas (well-beaten seventh in the Grade 1 won by Next Destination) and nothing showed up afterwards – it may have been the very heavy ground that caught him out. He is a chaser for next season but I thought he’d run better than he did at Naas. We’ll find something for him in the next few weeks but, as I said, he is a good bit better than the form that he showed at Naas. He is in the two-mile-six-furlong novice hurdle at Leopardstown and I’d say he’ll go there.”

Joseph O’Brien on Tower Bridge “He ran well at Leopardstown and he’ll go for a maiden or a novice hurdle next month. With that new rule now, we might keep as a novice up until Hatton’s Grace day this year so he won’t go to the Dublin Racing Festival and there is a good novice hurdle for him at Punchestown next month. He wouldn’t want the ground too soft and the ground at Leopardstown the last day was as soft as he’d want it. I think he could develop into a nice novice hurdler.” So why the change of mind? Oh he’s owned by JP McManus, nuff said!

Conclusion I’m with Carter McKay who will come on for the extra distance and Danny Mullins riding a hold up race from the front! Eight runners would have made Moyross an ew play but not with seven.

1.40 Dublin Chase G2 2m 1f

This race could be worth the entrance money alone. Special Tiara picked up the pieces when Douvan blew out in the QEQMCC last March at Cheltenham. Min beat Special Ned in the G1 at Leopardstown, but lost it in the stewards room, they re-oppose here. Ordinary World was third to Special Tiara at Cheltenham, Ballcasey has won four graded chase but never at G1 and usually over further and Alisier D’Irlande, a stunning specimen, who could lead this field a merry dance but has yet to convince in Grade 1. The wild card is of course the horse that Lydia Hislop has dubbed “The Ubiquity In Equine Form”, Yorkhill.

Immediately after winning the Neptune hurdle Ruby Walsh famously told the world that “this horse could win the Arkle Chase with his mouth open” and indeed at the start of this season Yorkhill was quoted in at least four Cheltenham ante-post markets. Immensely talented but to put it mildly “a sandwich short of a full picnic”! He jumps left, sometimes drastically, ran into a straw bale in a PtP and unseated, he is headstrong but he is a four time Grade 1 winner. This particular correspondent has always wanted to take him on but Kevin Blake (At the Races and Final Furlong Podcast) makes a very sound case for a G1 2m Championship chase being his correct race. At 2m the increased gallop will help him settle and at speed he will jump straighter. I’m on at 9/1 for the QEQMCC. I am quite prepared to see this latest venture fail but if successful the Cheltenham clash with Altior could be the race we all expected to see in the champion Hurdle!

Talking of the voluptuous Ms Hislop here is her take on Yorkhill in her latest “Road to Cheltenham”, “By the way, did I mention Yorkhill chipped a bone in his foreleg when finishing last in the Christmas Chase? Of course I didn’t – because neither did Willie Mullins until last Saturday. I thought I might have been overdoing the Trappist gags but hailMaryfullofgrace I repent! I repent! “He was out for ten days which he’d be getting [in any case] after the race,” Mullins said, minimising the news. “I think last year we had to take a splint bone out of him. He seems to rap himself but he recovers very quickly and won at Cheltenham after it.” Clearly if Yorkhill does pitch up on Saturday, the setback has indeed not been significant but nonetheless it is clearly far from ideal for this important Champion Chase audition. It will be fascinating to see who rides which Mullins charge in the race that will probably determine which horse is banished to the Ryanair.”

Conclusion I’ll pass on the punting front but this is a must watch race! Yorkhill and odds on just don’t go in the same sentence and what could you take him on with?

 

2.20 Frank Ward Arkle Novices Chase G1 2m 1f

Just five runners and in all reality it is probably a heavyweight match between Footpad and Petit Mouchoir, or is it?

Any Second Now was a leading, if not the leading, novice hurdler this time last year. He swerved Cheltenham and then unseated in the G2 at Fairyhouse. Since novice chasing he has been runner up on all three starts to Monalee, Invitation Only and he has 5L to make up on Footpad. Just hasn’t cut it in Grade 1.

Tycoon Prince had been supported for tomorrows handicap chase so a tad surprised to see him here. Promised much, well talked up but never delivered often over further. Saw off Bunk Off Early over C&D at Christmas, can he build on that?

Demi Sang is only five but has already won two chases at Auteiul and on Irish debut saw off the handy Avenir d’une Vie at Naas. He travelled, jumped adequately if little big at a couple and Geraghty had to get after to him from the last to get him home. Useful, probably wants further but not Champion Hurdle class! That is where Footpad and Petit Mouchoir were over the smaller obstacles. Footpad hasn’t put an hoof wrong over fences and currently looks the best in this division but Petit Mouchoir was the first horse in my Cheltenham notebook this season but has been side-lined with an entry. So it’s a trade-off between the fact that Footpad never beat Petit Mouchoir over hurdles against the fact that Petit Mouchoir has an interrupted preparation. Petit Mouchoirs trainer told Attheraces “He’s entered in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday and the plan is to run him. He had a setback since his chasing debut, but he seems good now and he’s ready to run. He seems well, but he obviously hasn’t had an ideal preparation for a race of this class, so while he will be there to do his best on the day, it might well prove to be a stepping stone to his next start.” Hardly bullish.

Conclusion Logic says Footpad but I’ll pass and enjoy the contest.

 

I’m going to post this now (5.50pm Thursday) and continue with the bumper and the two handicaps tomorrow!

Saturday January 27th SimpleSimonSays… 5.00pm

I’m going to try to crack the last five at Cheltenham! Got to be some value in there somewhere.

Cheltenham 1.50 G3 2m 5f handicap chase

A competitive handicap over the intermediate trip, 2m 5f, much loved here and it could have a bearing on the Tuesday Novices handicap, the Byrne Plate Handicap and possibly even the RyanAir at the Festival in March. Whittled it down to a shortlist of four, all ridden by promising claimers:-

Frodon – He is the class act, a C&D winner with recent placed form behind the likes of Top Notch, Black Corton and Might Bite. Saturdays pin-up girl Bryony Frost takes off five pounds. Potential RyanAir candidate.

Shantou Flyer – Closely handicapped with Ballyhill who beat him over C&D on New Years Day. He made a bad mistake five out that knocked him back through the field and he did well to get so close. More than useful but with two nasty habits, firstly a tendency to really clout one and secondly keeps finding a couple too good. However he acts round here, this is probably his best trip and he has the boy of the moment, James Bowen, taking off three pounds.

Ballyhill – Did everything right when stepped up in class to beat Shantou Flyer over C&D, jumped, travelled and quickened, and is up a fair five pounds for his efforts. The Nigel Twiston-Davies/Jamie Bargary combination are a potent force in these types of contests. The yard also runs Arctic Gold with Tom Humphries taking seven pounds off.

Coo Star Sivola – Useful hurdling form especially here at Cheltenham including a Festival fourth in the Martin Pipe and seems to have improved further over fences. His second to Kalondra over C&D with Movewiththetimes behind and a third to Finians Oscar may be questionable but they were C2 events and for a horse who handles the trip, course, grade, big fields, gets on well with three pound claimer Lizzie Kelly for an in-form Nick Williams going to post carrying just 10st 4lbs COO STAR SIVOLA has to be my two star** win selection @ 4/1 WH.

Market seems to share my views so I am probably stating the bleeding obvious but looking at the market the “value” could well be one star* each way Shantou Flyer @ 12/1 123 ¼.

 

Cheltenham 2.25 G2 3m 1½f Cotswold Chase

This race supposedly revolves around how you personally rate the 6/4-ish favourite Bristol de Mai. His annihilation of the BetFair chase field in the mud at Haydock was scary but surely he is seven pounds better on that ground and again seven pounds better at Haydock but his splitting of Yorkhill and Politologue in last year’s JLT at the Festival confirms he is a Grade 1 horse. He needs to win this to be a serious player in the Gold Cup in March.

Personally I can’t have Tea for Two (not good enough, doubts over course) nor Theatre Guide or Perfect Candidate (out of their depth). Singlefarmpayment is surely just having a prep for the Ultima handicap at the festival and Definitly Red and The Last Samurai are top handicappers with the Grand National in mind although connections of the former have pretensions for the Gold Cup itself.

That leaves just American, he of the legs of glass. He jumps for fun, will have the ground he wants, has Noel Fehily in the saddle but he has never before faced the unique challenge that is Prestbury Park.

I’ll pass. Bristol de Mai is too short and American is too much of an unknown to take 5/1.

 

Cheltenham 3.00 G2 2m 4f Ballymore Novices Hurdle Trial

Let’s put this race in a bit of context. Win here and you could have the opportunity to take on the darling of the Emerald Isle and possible Festival banker, Samcro! Nicky Henderson has already said about the Ballymore, “I’ve got On The Blind Side for that race….”, so either of his pair winning here would still be his De Boinville less second string which may explain todays jockey arrangements.

My first observation of this classy field is that all nine should go in your tracker especially with the long term in mind. They all look improvers especially when they see a fence next season and most of them cost an arm and a leg or two!

Slate House – The most highly tried of the field for the out of sorts Tizzard yard. Has a five pound penalty for beating future Tolworth winning Summerville Boy and Better Getalong in a Listed 2m ½f hurdle here at Cheltenham in a race run at a funereal pace. Last seen at Ascot when fourth and done for toe behind Claimantakinforgan and no surprise to see him stepping up at trip.

Tikkanbar – Unbeaten over hurdles and going the right way. Won his novice hurdle at Plumpton and then picked up his five pound penalty when beating Ainchea in a Listed version of this Ballymore trial series over C&D. Despite not hurdling fluently he galloped the field into the ground and holds Aye Aye Charlie on that run.

Aye Aye Charlie – Obviously well thought of by the Fergal O’Brien and the Ruckers as prior to finishing behind Tikkanbar his two other hurdling defeats were to On The Blind Side. Would be a big price surprise.

Black Op – Cost Roger Brookhouse the small matter of £210K and is a fine stamp of a horse if a little ungainly, who should have a huge future over fences. He beat Claimantakinforgan in a 2m Doncaster bumper a year ago but that form was reversed behind Lalor in the Aintree Festival bumper. He had an “educational” debut over hurdles behind Lostin Translation at Newbury in a C3 maiden hurdle before dropping two grades and returning to Town Moor and making all for a 17L victory. Back up in class here, as is Mr Brookhouse’s want! The first time tongue tie is noted.

De Rasher Counter – Emma Lavelle’s son of Yeats is the most experienced in the field being an Irish PtP and Bumper winner but took four goes over hurdles to get off the mark over hurdles in the UK. He won a C3 2m 3f handicap at Fontwell off OR123 and despite the handicapper putting him up ten pounds he surely has to find over a stone to trouble the best of these.

Fairmount – Trained locally by Martin Keighley, he hacked up in a heavy ground Ffos Las two mile C4 novice hurdle and that doesn’t look enough to win here. Two redeeming features, he has had a wind operation since his last run and he has the services of Champion jockey and Cheltenham specialist Richard Johnson.

Mulcahys Hill – Ran a cracker last time in the G1 2m 4f Challow at Newbury when almost nicking it off the home bend and making Poetic Rhythm pull out all the stops.

Pacific de Baune – Second to Knight in Dubai in an Irish PtP, bought for £60K by Highflyer, transferred to Nicky Hendersons and won a big field two mile C4 Maiden Hurdle at Newbury. Travelled, jumped neatly but took a little time to get stoked up before pulling 7L clear of Potterman. You would have expected him to be the yards second string but Nico de Boinville rides with Jeremiah McGrath aboard Santini, however the 8/1 that PP put him in at has long gone and he’s as short as 9/4 with the same firm.

So de Boinville explains in his Unibet blog “Pacific De Baune Unfortunately, I can’t ride two horses in one race, which is what I would like to do with Pacific De Baune and Santini in the line-up. Both are very exciting prospects and Pacific De Baune really did impress me no end when winning at Newbury last month. He is really coming to himself physically now and, while this is clearly a big step up for him, he did it really well last time and the form looks pretty strong, The runner-up is thought to be a decent sort, and the third has come out and bolted up at Taunton. I also have a lot of time for his stablemate Santini, who I was going to ride at Ascot last week but the guvnor pulled him out because of the ground, so hopefully it won’t be too bad here. This is obviously a hot race but he fully deserves his place in the line-up given what he did at Newbury for us on his hurdling debut, where to be honest he surprised us a little bit in the manner in which he defeated his stablemate Chef Des Obeaux so convincingly. We always thought he was a nice horse but he is a big unit, a recruit from the pointing field, and chasing will be his game. But that Newbury form doesn’t look too shabby at all – and it was in soft ground – with the runner-up bolting up at Kempton earlier this month and now being rated a lofty 145.  We have two strong hands in the race.”

Santini – NdB sums this horse up nicely and surely he’s an Alfred Bartlett horse more than a Ballymore type, if he goes to Cheltenham at all this season

CONCLUSION:- Henderson does hold a strong hand with two candidates full of potential but I think the riding arrangements is a red herring as I believe that Tikkanbar and Mulcahy’s Hill have room for the same scope but much stronger form in the book and I’m going with Neil Mulholland’s TIKKANBAR, as the trainer says “This will be another step up in class though he has done everything and more asked of him so far, and on the strength of that fully deserves his place in the line-up for what could be a hot renewal. We saw on New Year’s Day that the course won’t be a problem, we know he stays and underfoot conditions should suit.” Any improvement in his hurdling would help and with rain due he could be a tough cookie to pass. Two star** win @ 6/1 WH.

 

Three down, two to go! I’ll post this now 5.00pm

2018 Gold Cup deserves Respect!

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2018 ten weeks out!

Posted Mon. Jan 8th 1.30pm

As 2017 disappears over the horizon so the 2018 Cheltenham Festival comes galloping into view. There looks a different shape to this year’s four day punting frenzy with Footpad looking to be the only Willie Mullins shortie on view and the future of the Irish economy resting squarely on Samcro’s ample shoulders. Ante Post betting at Cheltenham seems to have gone the same way as trams and hula hoops but it can never be a bad Festival if you can crack the Gold Cup winner.

The 2018 edition may not be the best ever, although the winner will surely get an official rating of OR170+, but it looks dastardly competitive. I thought it would be fun if we looked at the race as a handicap, as of now, to see if we can spot the winner and/or some value. It helps that the Official Handicappers both sides of the Irish Sea seem to be in some sort of agreement!

 

Cheltenham 4.00 SimpleSimonSays…Gold Cup Handicap 3m2½f Good to Soft

11.10   Sizing John                                 (Potts Ltd)                           8yo         Jessica Harrington            Robbie Power?

11.09   Might Bite                        (Knot Again Partnership)              9yo         Nicky Henderson             Nico de Boinville

11.07   Bristol de Mai                        (Munir & Souede)           7yo         Nigel Twiston-Davies      Daryll Jacob

11.07   Our Duke                    (Cooper Family Syndicate)           8yo         Jessica Harrington            Robbie Power?

11.07   Road to Respect                           (Gigginstown)                   7yo         Noel Meade                       Sean Flanagan?

11.07   Thistlecrack                            (J & H Snook)                     10yo      Colin Tizzard                       Tom Scudamore?

11.07   Whisper                                             (Walters Plant Hire)        10yo      Nicky Henderson             Davy Russell

11.06   Double Shuffle           (Crossed Fingers Partnership)    7yo         Tom George                       A P Heskin

11.06   Native River                                    (Brocade Racing)              8yo         Colin Tizzard                      Richard Johnson

11.05   Djakadam                                         (Mrs S Ricci)                        9yo         Willie Mullins                     Ruby Walsh

11.04   Balko des Flos                        (Gigginstown)                   7yo         Henry de Bromhead       ????????????

11.04   Disko                                                   (Gigginstown)                   7yo         Noel Meade                       Sean Flanagan?

11.04   Tea for Two                            (Williams & Lakeman)    9yo         Nick Williams                      Lizzie Kelly

11.03   Minella Rocco                                                (JP McManus)                   8yo         JJ O’Neill                              Barry Geraghty?

11.03   Outlander                                         (Gigginstown)                   10yo      Gordon Elliott                    Jack Kennedy

11.02   Coneygree                              (The Max Partnership)  11yo      Mark Bradstock                ????????????

11.02   Coney Island                                   (JP McManus)                   8yo         Eddie Harty                         Barry Geraghty?

11.02   Empire of Dirt                                        (Gigginstown)                   11yo      Gordon Elliott                    Brian Cooper

11.01   Blaklion                                  (Such & Paletta)                               9yo         Nigel Twiston-Davies      Sam Twiston-Davies

 

11.00   Un Temps Pour Tout                 (Prof C Tisdall & B Drew) 9yo       David Pipe                           Tom Scudamore?

11.00   Valseur Lido                                   (Gigginstown)                   9yo         Henry de Bromhead       Noel Fehily?

10.13   Anibale Fly                                       (JP McManus)                   8yo         Tony Martin                       Mark Walsh

10.13   Definitly Red                                  (P J Martin)                         9yo         Brian Ellison                        Danny Cook

10.11   American                                (Jago Family Partnership) 8yo     Harry Fry                              Noel Fehily?

10.11   Presenting Percy                          (Philip J Reynolds)           7yo         Patrick Kelly                        Davy Russell?

10.10   Alpha Des Obeaux                       (Gigginstown)                   8yo         Mouse Morris                   Mark Enright

10.10   A Toi Phil                                          (Gigginstown)                   8yo         Gordon Elliott                    Keith Donoghue

10.10   Black Hercules                               (A & G Wylie)                     9yo         Willie Mullins                     Paul Townend

10.10   Total Recall                                      (Slaneyville Syndicate)   9yo         Willie Mullins                     David Mullins

10.07   Killultagh Vic                  (Boyd Armstrong Anderson))     9yo         Willie Mullins                     DannyMullins

 

 

SPOTLIGHT

 

GENERAL Let’s be fair, if that thirty lined up it would be some race, especially as if the handicapper was running the book as well because it should be 25/1 any of them! Well I could see at least half of them facing the starter this March if not as many as twenty. Another way of looking at the race through their handicap marks is that, at one pound = one length, the handicapper thinks that Sizing John will win by a length but with six horses within six lengths of him and another fourteen horses should be within ten lengths!

Time to weed a few out, so here’s my bite sized opinion of the possible contenders!

Sizing John Currently wears the crown and has looked pure class since March winning G1’s at Punchestown at their April Festival and on seasonal debut until it all went pear shaped at Leopardstown in the Christmas Chase (Lexus as was). Never travelling, he was “clinically abnormal” after the race and the Harrington yard had just one winner in December suggesting a low level virus of some sort. The Irish Gold Cup in a month’s time could be a big test? We know he acts on Spring ground, handles Cheltenham and he got the trip last year. Could go straight to the Festival.

Might Bite Has he grown up? Like many a teenager as a novice he was quirky at best, nuts at worst! He did win the G1 RSA last season here at the Festival on the Old course, then impressive at Aintree, beating stable mate Whisper both times. Looked much more pliable in both starts this season and some of his leaps would clear the average bus but I still have niggly doubts about his stamina, his jumping under pressure and his levels of concentration. The general opinion of his success in the King George at Kempton over Christmas was “underwhelming”. He is progressive and perhaps he just does enough?

Bristol de Mai If this race was run at the Somme he would be a shoo-in! Second to Black Hercules in the 2016 JLT, seventh in the Gold Cup last season he has yet to show he is any more than a flat track, heavy ground bully albeit a very good one.

Our Duke Chose to miss Cheltenham last season and it wouldn’t surprise me if they did so again. Built his reputation by destroying the field from the front in the Irish National off OR153. Currently on the easy list having scoped badly after disappointing behind Outlander at Down Royal but reportedly getting there. I’d like to see some form against the big boys not Bless my Wings!

Road to Respect Noel Meade has a rapidly improving 7yo on his hands. Hacked up in the Byrne Plate handicap over 2m5f at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, then pipped an errant Yorkhill at Fairyhouse and rounded off his season winning the Grade 3 3m1f novice chase at the Punchestown Festival. Opened this season touched off by Outlander at Down Royal but showed his true colours when winning the Grade 1 Christmas Chase at Lexus beating Balko des Flos and Outlander with the fancied pair Sizing John and Djakadam running listlessly behind. So that’s trip, grade, ground, course all covered and horse, jockey and trainer are all in form.

Thistlecrack I believe that one’s personal opinion of how Thistlecrack ran in the 2017 King George will determine whether you think he wins the 2018 Gold Cup. He is a multiple G1 winner with the World Hurdle and the King George on his CV. Despite being ten years old he has low mileage on his chasing clock and this will be his first attempt at the Gold Cup as despite being favourite for much of last season he missed the 2017 race through injury. So back to the King George, if you thought he ran a race suggesting he was coming back to form and that the extra yardage and stiff finish at Cheltenham would eke further improvement then he is a player. However my personal view is that last season’s thrilling but tragic Cotswold Chase in which Many Clouds paid the ultimate price for victory took Thistlecrack to a place that he has no intention of revisiting. He is a class horse who I expect to jump and travel but I feel that the more Tom Scudamore has to ask for the less he will get in response.

Whisper Whichever way you look at it he can’t beat Might Bite. If Presenting Percy turned up here would be interesting to see who Davy Russell rode, if he has the choice?

Double Shuffle He was put up 15lb for running Might Bite to a length in the King George last Boxing Day and is probably the reason the form of that race is looking average at best. Double Shuffle is an honest staying chaser at his best going right handed on a flat track over 3m. If he was mine of course I would run him in the Gold Cup, the handicapper says I’ve only got to find five pounds to win the damned thing BUT I would definitely have the Gold Cup at Punchestown in late April ringed in my diary as that could be race where things stack up in HIS favour.

Native River Last year’s third in the Gold Cup is yet to be seen on a racecourse this season. The thinking of Team Tizzard seems to be that he is at his best on his second and third outings. So it is prep in the Denman, second run in the Gold Cup and third run in the National. Ambitious. His top two runs were in winning the Hennessey and the Welsh National, both handicaps. In my opinion he would be a National horse winning a Gold Cup but I felt the same about Synchronised! A soft ground Cheltenham would enhance his chances.

Djakadam He looks like a burnt out wreck of the horse that stormed to victory in that foggy Thyestes Chase three years ago! The formbook says Sizing John has his number. Does he stay 3m 2f? Does he get up that Cheltenham hill? Both of his last two Grade 1 victories were over 2m4f at Punchestown and perhaps that C&D are his best chance of returning to the winner’s enclosure? However if there is one trainer that could wave his magic wand and freshen this horse up it is the wizard, Willie Mullins. If Djakadam does step back in trip for the RyanAir, Ruby Walsh’s choice of ride in the Gold Cup would be interesting!

Balko des Flos Where has this one come from? Of course he won the ultra-competitive Galway Plate last summer over 2m6½f off OR146 for which he was raised twelve pounds. Ran third in the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil chase behind Alpha des Obeaux but most recently was stepped up to three miles and split Road to Respect and Outlander in that Christmas chase at Leopardstown last December for which he was put up another six pounds to the dizzy heights of OR164. Only a 7yo and certainly the best his French sire, Balko, has produced. Sent off at 16/1 for the JLT last season, he was leading four out when he fell in a red hot race that saw Yorkhill beat Top Notch, Disko and Politogue! Progressive, untested beyond three miles but surely a big player in the RyanAir?

Disko Where the hell is he? Third in last season’s JLT but impressive in beating Anibale Fly by five lengths in the Growise Champion Novice Chase over 3m½f at the Punchestown Festival. Opened this seasons account beating Ballyoisin half a length in the Grade 2 at Down Royal over a clearly too short 2m3½f but absent since the 4th November. Allegedly the apple of trainer Noel Meade’s eye and it is my belief that he thinks that if they were both fit and firing that Disko would be his best chance of winning a Cheltenham Gold Cup. However will Gigginstown give him the chance? Meade has been here before with Road to Riches.

Minella Rocco Second in last season’s Gold Cup staying on strongly. Most recently fourth in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown when done for toe but the trainer, Jonjo O’Neill, suggested he was going down the handicap route. Indeed ever since he won the 4m NH chase at the Festival in 2016 he has looked a Grand National winner in waiting and I am of the opinion that like Native River he would be a National horse winning a Gold Cup. Niggly concern that O’Neill has a habit of getting horses to peak for four days every March.

Outlander Splendid Gigginstown owned Grade 1 winning yardstick. Goes to all the big gigs, frequently places but the formbook suggests he is well held by Road to Respect.

Coneygree Fragile, talented, won the Gold Cup as a novice in 2016. Trained by family Bradstock. He is a rare visitor to the racecourse and impossible to fathom. If he turned up in the shape he was two years ago and jumped and galloped like he did then he would have many in this field way out of their comfort zone and would be a tough nut to crack, that is an enormous IF. Sadly I feel his time has gone.

Coney Island Always highly thought of but this son of Flemensfirth out of a Milan mare is very lightly raced, just ten starts to date, with only four over fences. As a novice he split Our Duke and Disko in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels chase at Leopardstown over 3m in December 2016, top form indeed but then unseen until he hacked up in a three runner 2m5f C2 Graduation Chase at Ascot that fell apart as the runaway leader was cooked turning for home and the other horse was the “gone at the game” More of That. A single figure price for this seasons Cheltenham Gold Cup is beyond me. I want to see him against the big boys prior to Cheltenham. Kinloch Brae, BobbyJo or the Irish Gold Cup?

Empire of Dirt Not seen since pulling up in the Betway Bowl last April and it will be some feat for an 11yo to win this season’s deep version of the Gold Cup. Beaten just three quarters of a length by Sizing John in the Irish Gold Cup a year ago and fourth to Un de Sceaux in the 2017 RyanAir at Cheltenham explains the horses high mark and if he returns to the festival the Ryanair would seem the most likely target.

Blaklion It is often forgotten that this bonny horse won the RSA at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. He is a fine jumper, all guts and stamina although the jury is out whether he stays the Grand National trip? His second to Bristol de Mai in this seasons Charlie Hall looked solid after the victors wide margin BetFair Chase win at Haydock. To me he is another who would be a National horse winning a Gold Cup but thoroughly deserves his place in the field.

Un Temps Pour Tout Never heard him spoken about in Gold Cup terms but David Pipes 9yo has won the last two runnings of the 3m 1f Ultima handicap chase on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival. So that is trip, Spring ground and the Festival boxes all ticked. Why not? Surely when they forked out £450K to buy him the Gold Cup would have been the plan. Not seen since that last Ultima victory but the trainer told ATR back in November “You won’t see him until the second half of the season as he comes good in the Spring and he will have a Grand National entry at the same time.”

Valseur Lido A top grade novice when with Willy Mullins winning Grade 1 chases at 2m4f and 3m1f and was third in the 2015 JLT to Vautour and not far away when falling in the King George when Cue Card pipped Vautour. Transferred to Henry de Bromhead he won the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal and was fourth to Outlander in the 2016 Lexus chase. He was then off the course for a year, on the home gallops he fractured a cannon bone that required surgery, before running a promising fifth under the intelligent guidance of Noel Fehily, an eye catching booking, in what had now become the Christmas chase at Leopardstown over 3m1f. Interesting.

Anibale Fly Hosed up in the Grade B 3m Paddy Power handicap chase at Leopardstowns Winter festival. Greater racing minds than mine suggested trainer Tony Martin may have been “hiding his light under a bushel” by campaigning him over too short a trip but he had no problem getting three miles and his official mark rose eleven pounds from OR148 to OR159. Won his bumpers on heavy ground and the only time he has run on Good ground was when sent off 3/1F for the 2016 Kauto Star novice chase at Kempton and he didn’t go a yard, this is the race that Might Bite had in the bag but fell at the last! Recently his trainer said “After the Leopardstown win you’d imagine he could be a Grand National type.” The Irish Gold Cup on February 4th seems his next target. Owner JP McManus also has Coney Island and Minella Rocco who would seem the more likely Cheltenham Gold Cup candidates. Anibale Fly is a progressive, classy 8yo. As for Grand Nationals, could be Irish 2018, Aintree 2019?

Definitly Red Trainer Brian Ellison certainly thinks he deserves a shot at the Gold Cup. However with wins round tracks like Aintree, Ayr, Wetherby and Doncaster suggesting he is best suited to a flatter course and in two visits to Cheltenham he is yet to complete having pulled up in Martello Tower’s Alfred Bartlett and falling in Minella Rocco’s 4m NH chase, the SkyBet or the Grimthorpe, which he won last year, at Doncaster look his quickest route to the winners circle albeit probably having to carry top weight. Then surely it’s back to Aintree for another tilt at the Grand National, he tops my shortlist, after only a slipping saddle caused him to pull up last year and at the time I thought nothing was going better.

American He must drive trainer Harry Fry to despair? Oodles of talent but legs of glass, is there a better jumper of a fence in training? (OK, Grand Vision was pretty good!) Yet to win beyond Listed company and must have Soft in the going. Peter Marsh at Haydock or the Grimthorpe at Haydock would seem logical targets but Harry Fry could have his eye on Ireland?

Presenting Percy Another who hacked up in a handicap defying top weight off OR145 for which he was raised twelve pounds to OR157. At last season’s Cheltenham Festival he put the field to the sword in the Pertemps handicap hurdle and is clearly a talented horse. Currently well to the fore in the RSA ante post market I just wonder if his sporting owners might just fancy a tilt at the Gold Cup with an improving 7yo who is bang in form? If they did who would Davy Russell ride? This fella, Whisper or one of the Gigginstown battalion?

Alpha Des Obeaux Fourth to Might Bite in the 2017 RSA, second to Total Recall in the Munster National conceding sixteen pounds he is somewhat in limbo. If he does run at Cheltenham this March personally I would love see him carry close to top weight in that Tuesday 3m Ultima handicap but I fear they will throw him at the RyanAir chase as he won the Clonmel Oils chase this season over a similar trip.

A Toi Phil

I’ll finish the field of thirty with three trained by Willie Mullins that would all have to come under the heading, “Wildcards”. There is talk of Djakadam running in the shorter RyanAir which begs the question, “What will Ruby Walsh ride in the Gold Cup?” Black Hercules Back in 2016 we all thought he was a good thing for the 4m NH chase when Mullins switched him to the JLT and he duly obliged. Clearly talented he is just starting to have entries again. Total Recall Left Sandra Hughes, went to Closutton and heigh ho he wins the Munster National off OR129 and the Ladbroke Trophy (the Hennessey in old money) off OR148. Very much a case of a horse being “minded” over a shorter trip. Mullins has nominated the BobbyJo at Fairyhouse on February 25th before a crack at the Grand National in April but we’ve all played and lost on Willy Bingo before! Killtulagh Vic For me this was the training performance of the Christmas/New Year racing with massive credit going also Colm McBratney who nursed him back. He hardly jumped a flight at Punchestown but ran away from the likes of Ex Patriot, Tigris River and Ivanovich Gorbatov. Team Mullins has suggested he will be seen next in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park. If he makes Cheltenham this March the Ryanair would seem the logical race but this is Willy Mullins. Quoted for the Stayers hurdle but I wouldn’t rule out a Blue Riband appearance nor for that matter top weight in the Byrne Plate!

 

CONCLUSION

So before I open the golden envelope I would like to throw three stats at you and regular readers will know I love a stat or three! Firstly this century, horses that didn’t win the Gold Cup at their first attempt but are back again are O from 66, Secondly all horses aged ten or older are 0 from 67 and thirdly horses that had a prep race on heavy ground are 0 from 72+. For those reasons alone I can’t have Thistlecrack, Whisper, Outlander, Coneygree , Empire of Dirt, Bristol de Mai, Djakadam, Native River, Minella Rocco and Tea for Two!

Health concerns with Sizing John and Our Duke rule them out for me. Blaklion, Definitly Red, Minella Rocco, Total Recall and Native River would be more likely to be the first five home in the Grand National. Presenting Percy, Valseur Lido and Kiltullagh Vic are worthy long shots and if Disko lines up in March he will be running under the penalty of my money.

Might Bite has to be a player but I will repeat what I said in the Spotlight section, “I still have niggly doubts about his stamina, his jumping under pressure and his levels of concentration.” Backing him now at 4/1 would only be as a “saver”.

To me Gigginstown Stud have the strongest hand and as I am looking for young legs with Cheltenham form who has current Grade 1 form ROAD TO RESPECT seems to be their ace.

The 11/1 currently available with William Hill represents value to me and I recommend a three star*** win bet.

 

P.S

Pricewise (Tom Segal) is due to have a Cheltenham Gold Cup ante post piece in the Racing Post on Thursday January 11th which could well shake up the market.

Cheltenham Festival entries begin this week.

9 Jan – Gold Cup, QM, Ryanair

16 Jan – Champ Hurdle, Mares, Stayers

23 Jan – Arkle, NH Chse, RSA, JLT

30 Jan – Supreme, Neptune, Triumph, Alfred Bartlett

20 Feb – Ultima, Close Bros, Coral, Fred Winter, Pertemps, Byrne Plate, Kim Muir, County, Martin Pipe, Grand Annual

27 Feb – Cross Country, Bumpers, Mares Nov, Foxhunters

National Hunt Season 2017-18 Half Term report

Posted Thursday January 4th 1.30pm

Messy. Confusing, Underperforming superstars. Lack of consistency in going and form lines. The Peter O’Sullevan Trophy for Broadcaster of the Year went to Luke Harvey. It’s that sort of season!

Apart from Buveur D’Air winning the Champion Hurdle I wouldn’t be surprised if the Irish won the other twenty seven races. Cheltenham drives the jumps season in the UK and is the prism through which the sport is most often viewed and seeing the home team at Cheltenham swept away on a tide of green success would be as miserable as the current form of our cricket side! So this review has to start in the Emerald Isle.

Willie Mullins has had a horrid three months and Gordon Elliott hasn’t won every three mile chase! Jessica Harrington had one winner in December, Our Duke is on the injury list and Sizing John threw in a stinker in the Christmas Chase (Lexus in old money) at Leopardstown. Step forward Noel Meade, Henry de Bromhead, Tony Martin, Gavin Cromwell et al. Ruby Walsh broke his leg, Davy Russell rules the weighing room, Jack Kennedy continues his rise to the top and surely Mark Walsh has to replace Barry Geraghty sooner rather than later. As for the horses Samcro is “not the second coming” (M O’Leary) but is certainly the horse most talked about and he makes winning look so easy! Petit Mouchoir initially and now Footpad look two scintillating two mile novice chasers. Apple’s Jade is one gutsy filly.

So what have we got in the UK? Cue Card is on a lap of honour en route to the retirement stable. Thistlecrack and Coneygree are both trying to recapture former glories but beset by injury. My Tent Or Yours beats The New One in the International (Bula in old money) Hurdle and Age Concern land the forecast! Sam Spinner and Beer Goggles leapt to the top of the Staying Hurdle tree and both have won handicaps this season!! Off OR139 and OR145 respectively. Altior has had a wind operation, news brought to us courtesy of an online bookmaker.

Surely Simon there must be some good news? Well there is. Bristol de Mai is the best steeplechaser since Arkle having won the G1 Betfair Chase by fifty seven lengths at the parallel universe that is Haydock on heavy going. The Official handicapper put him up to OR173 and the Racing Post gave him a jaw dropping mark of 185!! Ridiculous. Might Bite put him in his place in the King George at Kempton when he gave the OR151 Double Shuffle a thorough one length hiding. Might Bite is undoubtedly talented but so was Paul Gascoigne! In On The Blind Side and If The Cap Fits we may have two promising novice hurdlers, otherwise it’s a case of pinning our hopes on the army of winning bumper horses trained by Messr’s Fergal O’Brien and Ben Pauling and as I was reminded once again by ITV Racing (who exactly, gave contracts to Richi Persad and Mick Fitzgerald?) we have Bryony Frost.

IT IS all about the Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown Festivals which will be set up by the Cheltenham Trials meeting (Jan. 27th) and the excellent new Dublin Festival of Racing at Leopardstown (Feb. 3rd and 4th). Horses are great but before you get stuck into four legged form it may be worthwhile considering some expectations for their two legged connections.

Willie MullinsHas to be Irelands Champion NH trainer. Convinced he will target his very best horses at those two Irish Festivals at Leopardstown in February and Punchestown in late April and possibly the Irish Grand National meeting on Easter Weekend at the beginning of April. May have some extremely well handicapped inmates!

Gordon ElliottAddicted to winners. Driven by success. Would like to be Champion trainer.

Michael O’Leary – Wants to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, badly, other races at Prestbury Park are peripheral. Wants Gordon Elliott to be Champion trainer. Wants to win every staying chase in Ireland.

Rich Ricci – Wants winners, especially at Cheltenham, deserves them. Currently having a rough time as Kevin Blake pointed out in a recent excellent ATR blog, “Rich Ricci is one man that will be happy to see the back of 2017. The charismatic owner is well established as one of the leading owners in National Hunt racing, but having had seven Grade 1 winners in 2012, seven in 2013, nine in 2014, 11 in 2015, 14 in 2016, he has just two such victories to show for his efforts in 2017, namely the Champion Four-Year-Old at the Punchestown with Bapaume and the Morgiana Hurdle with Faugheen.”

Graham Wylie – Whatever Willie wants. Nicholls Canyon’s demise must have been a hammer blow.

JP McManus – A true Olympian of the sport. “It is not the winning, it is the taking part that matters.” Just asks for a couple of punts for him and his “mates”.

Paul Nicholls – Obviously can’t be Champion trainer, can he? No shrewder trainer on the planet, he’ll put the right horses in the right races and in Sam Twiston-Davies, Harry Cobden and Sean Bowen has three talented jockeys. Sorry, Ed Chamberlain just been on the line. Make that four, they also employ Bryony Frost!

Nicky Henderson – Just wants to get Altior, Might Bite, Buveur D’Air, On The Blind Side and Apple’s Shakira fit and firing at Cheltenham and Aintree and he will be Champion trainer. Sadly recent events have shown that as magnificent a racehorse trainer he is, he hasn’t a clue how social media and modern markets work! Needs a savvy Assistant Trainer to run his PR.

Dan Skelton – Obsessed by winners, has the talent and the ammunition to deliver. Just needs a couple of Championship horses to be the real deal. Would be a perfect match for the Gigginstown operation.

David Pipe – A shadow of the operation run by his father. Moon Racer sums them up perfectly. Expensive and absent.

Philip Hobbs – Out of form. Hope springs eternal and he has two bumper winners in Crooks Peak and Total Love that could see him back at the top table.

Fergal O’Brien, Ben Pauling, Neil Mulholland, Anthony Honeyball, Stuart Edmunds – Shrewd, well run, well placed, in form yards who could all taste Festival success this Spring.

P.S Some of you may remember I wrote on this blog about a desire to take on Yanworth and Yorkhill at Cheltenham in 2017. Well ten months on, Groundhog Day, I stand by every word.

 

Wednesday 15th November 5.00pm

It’s time to get back blogging.

The Flat season is done and dusted, well almost, just keeping an eye on those AW maidens especially runners from the Gosden, Haggas and Varian yards.

I decided this year that I would see the Flat season through until the end and start my National Hunt season with Clonmel Oils day and the Cheltenham November (Open) meeting when there may be some relevant form available. I am going to post this blog on simplesimonsays49.wordpress.com and on startracking.wordpress.com and then all my jumping blogs will be on the latter site.

Train of Thought

The upcoming three days at Cheltenham and two days at Punchestown signal the start of the “core” jumping season and I expect still to be writing more in my Notebook than on betting slips. Every race will be reviewed through the prism of the Cheltenham Festival. Many trainers will be looking to get their face on TV to raise their profile and spout on about their latest “live Festival chance” but obviously they will “take it one race at a time”! Here is my take on where the leading trainers are and what their targets are for this season.

Powerhouses

Willie Mullins Simple. He HAS to be Champion trainer in Ireland. His Closutton stables still have the greatest depth of serious all round talent. It’s Achilles heel may be the three mile chase division but I’m sure he’ll rectify that in the next couple of seasons. He will target four major meetings, Leopardstown at Christmas, the first weekend of February for the NH version of Irish Champions weekend plus the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals. How close the pesky Gordon Elliott is at the end of March will decide whether he goes to Aintree. Huge assets in Ruby Walsh and Paul Townend and the return of Faugheen and Douvan’s trip the major talking points.

Gordon Elliott A serious player where ever he turns up. With the support of the Gigginstown Mounted Cavalry he is very strong in the 3m+ chase division and the supply pipeline to get there, so bumpers, staying novice hurdles, novice chasers from 2m4f upwards with other stars including Apples Jade, Cause of Causes and Petit Mouchoir. He will target the same four meetings as Mullins plus the Irish Grand National is a big race for Gigginstown.

Nicky Henderson Traditional, orthodox, vastly experienced and often an iron fist in a velvet glove. He has a solid all round team with three big guns in Buveur D’Air, Altior and Might Bite.

Paul Nicholls The man is driven. I wouldn’t want to even play Scrabble against him, he is competitive with a capital ‘C’! This season he has a large squad of novice chasers as he searches for the “next big thing”. Has a formidable team of jockeys in Sam Twiston-Davies, 19yo Harry Cobden, Sam Bowen especially at 10st and claiming 7lbs, Bryony Frost.

 

Old School

Philip Hobbs 100 winners and a £1 million in prize money, regular as clockwork. This season will be spiced up by Defi du Seuil and possibly Gumball and Hobbs will want a Festival winner.

Alan King 100 winners and a £1 million in prize money but I just have a feeling Mr King has developed a taste for the Flat? Big handicaps and a Festival winner high up his targets.

Nigel Twiston-Davies Hardly ever out of form who just churns out winners all season. Would love to have a Saturday horse or two to back up Bristol de Mai. Healthy competition in the shape of Fergal O’Brien across the road!

 

Pretenders

Dan Skelton He isn’t hungry for winners, he is ravenous. A chunky chip off the Nicholls block. 100 winners and a £1 million in prize money was the target but he could do that by Christmas! He wants to be in amongst Henderson and Nicholls. Pressure to get a Festival winner. Busy yard, where most horses are ridden by the trainer’s brother, Harry, and the trainer’s girlfriend, Bridget Andrews!

Harry Fry All about quality this yard. Patience is the by word. Fry and Fehily are a perfect match. American and UnowhatImeanharry are the stables leading lights. Not afraid of a handicap or two.

 

On the Up

Neil Mulholland – Tom George – Ben Pauling – Fergal O’Brien

Solid, competent yards who are media savvy and I would expect all four to do better than they did last season. Quite willing to take on the Powerhouses, can think outside the box and place their horses well.

 

Shrewdies

Dr Richard Newland – Kim Bailey – Graeme McPherson

Make the most of what they have. Dangerous men when the money is down.

 

State of Flux

Colin Tizzard Last season he was on the verge of joining the Powerhouses but the recent deaths of leading owners Ann and Alan Potts will make this November Cheltenham meeting emotional as we wait for news of the top notch Potts horses. Cue Card has been a wonderful servant but is close to a final hurrah, Thistlecrack is on the way back from injury. As far as I am concerned the sooner Joe Tizzard takes over at the helm the better. Stable strength would be much reduced without the Potts aeroplanes.

David Pipe Just 80 horses at Pond House these days. Currently the yard is in good form but the Saturday winners have dried up. Moon Racer and Un Temps pour Tout are still in the yard but the Tinsdall money has not reaped the rewards! Stable jockey Tom Scudamore seems to be making new connections plus plenty of outside rides and is the writing on the wall?

Jonjo O’Neill My winter version of Mark Johnston!!! Can’t read him at all. Has just about the best facilities in Britain, a McManus conveyor belt of top horse flesh but seems to be in form for four days a year, maybe. I’m not Barry Geraghty’s biggest fan either. Anyone who could give me “Ten Jonjo horses to follow” is a friend for life!

 

Plateau-ed

Warren Greatrex – Charlie Longsdon – Donald McCain – Sue Smith

McCain is fighting his way back to the top table and I think best when sending his horses north from his Cheshire yard.

Longsdon was almost at top table four or five years back but just doesn’t have the owners. JJ Burke signing as stable jockey should be a positive. Whole set up lacks ‘X’ factor.

Warren Greatrex could have gone in the “On The Up” pigeon hole as well as the Shrewdies section and is surely just a couple of top horses from cracking it. The Worlds End? Any yard that has Tessa Greatrex/Highflyer buying for it, the McNeill family among the owners and Richard Johnson and Gavin Sheehan riding for it surely has to be taken seriously!

The Smiths are terrific with Danny Cook’s aggressive style in the saddle a good fit. They jump and they gallop but some would say they could benefit with a bit more time between races.

 

I will come back to this theme of Trainers targets, aims and ability. Yet to mention the “Taffia”, the Girls, the dual purpose boys and the resurgent North!

Saturday October 28th Time for some verbals!

Posted Friday 27th 6pm

Excellent afternoons racing ahead with Newbury and Doncaster on the Flat whilst National Hunt fans are well catered for at Cheltenham and Kelso. For punting purposes I will stick to the Flat although full attention will be given to the Cotswold venue and there are many decent horses making the long haul to Kelso.

The Group 1 Racing Post Trophy for two year old colts is a belter with most of the runners on my radar and in the Notebook! Fully expect the winner to be the 2018 2000 Guineas and/or Derby winter favourite.

Winners look hard to find so we will just go with the Lucky 15 and a stab at the Racing Post Trophy.

Win Lucky 15

Doncaster 1.45           STAXTON                                @ 6/1 general

Doncaster 4.00           BOUNDSY                               @ 9/1 general

Newbury 2.50            VINTAGER                               @ 7/1 BF 13/2 general

Newbury 3.55            HIKMAA                                  @ 11/2 general

Star* Singles (5 stars* Out)

Doncaster 1.45           STAXTON                                One star* win @ 6/1 general

Doncaster 3.25           VERBAL DEXTERITY                Three star*** win @ 4/1 WH + BF

Newbury 2.50            VINTAGER                               One star* win @ 7/1 BF 13/2 general

 and here is why

Doncaster 3.25 Doncaster Racing Post Trophy G1 8F 2yo colts

Undoubtedly the strongest, deepest 2yo race run in Europe this season and much of the hype will be over O’Brien breaking Bobby Frankels G1 record here or whether he’ll have to wait for Sunday in France or Lord help us, the Breeders Cup! I am going to keep this simple and put up the only horse to have already won a Group 1, VERBAL DEXTERITY. Aiden O’Brien clearly didn’t run his first team in the National stakes but the selection put Beckford and the rest to the sword in impressive fashion and Jim Bolger hasn’t sent him here for a day out! Saxon Warrior hasn’t done anything wrong but looks a Derby horse to me, likewise The Pentagon. Chilean and Loxley need to make a giant leap forwards and the main danger may be the cannily placed Roaring Lion from John Gosden. I think Verbal Dexterity has the class and speed to hold them all at bay.

 

Doncaster 1.45           STAXTON Having won two Novice events at Haydock over this 6F trip he was stepped up in grade finishing 5th in the G2 Gimcrack, 6th in the G2 Middle Park and third in the Listed Rockingham. He was beaten by the filly Rebel Assault last time out but didn’t get the cleanest of runs and a pound better off can turn the tables here. The biggest dangers will be the lightly raced Newmarket raiders, Hugo Palmers Never Back down and John Gosdens once raced winner of a Yarmouth maiden, Mutaaqeb. However I’ll stick with the form in the book.

Doncaster 4.00           BOUNDSY Already done us two favours this season at Chester and Haydock and with Paul Hanagan taking over the reins he is in effect up six pounds. However Boundsy doesn’t know how to run a bad race and loves a photograph! In his last five races he has been beaten a head and a neck and won by a neck, a neck and a nose! It might happen a bit quick for him over Doncaster’s sharp five but he is in top form and possibly still improving.

Newbury 2.50            VINTAGER 33/1 winner of his maiden at HQ for Sussex trainer David Menuisier may have been a surprise but that Newmarket maiden has thrown up a shed load of winners, the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and tenth have all obliged! Stepped up to G3 class in the Solario at Sandown over 7F he was an honourable fifth to Masar. His trainer is saying all the right things “Vintager seems to be in good shape and the track at Newbury should suit. I think that the soft ground should suit as well because he won nicely on similar ground on his debut at Newmarket. He was meant to run the other day at Newmarket in the G3 Somerville Stakes but his scope wasn’t great, so we decided to give him a bit more time and he seems fine now. He was very green when he ran in the Solario Stakes and he switched off a little bit too much at the back. Sandown is not an easy track for two-year-olds and, when you win first time out, you need to learn a great deal quickly in order to compete at G3 level. Despite his greenness, it was still a good run. He should be a bit cleverer on his third run and we will see how he gets on – he will either prove me right or prove me wrong!”

Newbury 3.55            HIKMAA Won her first two races on the AW over 6F and her two most recent runs have been in Group company. She wasn’t far away when fourth in the G2 7F Rockfel behind Juliet Capulet at HQ and over the same course and distance when fifth in the G3 Oh So Sharp. Ed Vaughan has found the ideal race for Hikmaa, Listed, 7F and Adam Bechizza is her regular pilot.

Friday October 27th 

Posted Thursday October 26th 6.40pm

Three fascinating cards with Newbury and Doncaster on the Flat and for the winter fans the first days racing of the season at Cheltenham. I think I can see a definite each way Lucky 15 and probably a win Lucky 15 as well! As usual it will be selections first then the here’s why but that part might have some different headings! Clear as mud.

First though some general observations.

Cheltenham – Good (watered). (Going Stick: 6.6 on Thursday at 15:00) Watering: Have applied up to 180mm of irrigation since the end of August. Rails: All hurdle and chase bends dolled out 7 yards. The 2m 5f hurdle start has been moved forward 25 yds to improve the start. Distances as follows: Races 1 and 3 2m 5f 63yds Race 2 2m 21yds Race 4 3m 164yds Race 5 3m 1f 84yds Races 6 and 7 2m 129yds Going/Weather/Other last updated @Thu 26 Oct 3:09pm

The handicaps have large fields but the ground has reduced the level weights fields. Wouldn’t be too keen to take a short price! Small stakes, big prices may be the way to have an interest. Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell are in attendance!

Newbury – Soft (Going Stick: 5.3 on 26-10-2017 at 07:45) Stalls: Centre of the course straight course

Rails: The 7f and 5f Bends are set on the inside lines so all round course races are standard distances. Rail will be moved after racing on Friday to give fresh ground for Saturday.

The maidens are essential viewing, debutantes especially.

Doncaster – Straight Good Round Good, Good to Soft in places (Going Stick: 7.5 on Thursday at 06:30)

Stalls: Straight course stands side Round course inside

This quicker ground could see some upsets.

 

Each way Lucky 15

Doncaster 3.35                       OUTBACK TRAVELLER                               8/1 PP and shortening!

Newbury 4.35                        REPTON                                              12/1 general

Doncaster 4.45                       ANDOK                                                               11/1 WH

Doncaster 5.20                       HAWRIDGE FLYER                                        11/1 general

Win Lucky 15

Doncaster 1.20                       DUBHE                                                5/2 WH + Ladbrokes

Newbury 1.40                        GEORGE OF HEARTS                                   2/1 general

Doncaster 2.25                       GRANDSCAPE                                     7/2 general                            

Newbury 3.25                        DUKE OF BRONTE                              5/1 general

 

Horses on my Radar with an eye for next season (2018)

Newbury 1.10 BLUE MIST This gelded son of Mafki was an impressive winner on the Aw at Kempton on debut but now on Soft ground and with a three pound penaly I’ll pass. Handicaps next season.

Doncaster 1.15 DUBHE Three runs and into a handicap. Fourth on debut in a hot maiden at Newbury won by Mildenberger, won well at Sandown and then derailed by the heavy ground behind Chilean on heavy in a Listed race at Haydock. Being by Dubawi out of a Galileo mare suggests he’ll want further next season but I think the handicapper has been lenient starting him off on OR90 and on this better ground for the in form Charlie Appleby yard looks good.

Newbury 1.40 GEORGE OF HEARTS Richard Hughes has a smart 2yo on his hands in the shape of Glendevon and he mentioned this fellow in the same sentence in the Racing Post at the weekend. George of Hearts was fourth on debut here at Newbury and goes a hundred yards further this time. The second from that maiden finished an excellent third in the Listed totepool 2yo Trophy at Redcar giving the form some substance. Nothing too scary in the newcomers.

Doncaster 2.25 GRANDSCAPE Oh I really hope he runs well! He was fourth in one of my favoured Yarmouth maidens behind a horse I have real high hopes for, Regal Reality. My thoughts on James Tate’s US bred son of Lemon Drop Kid on debut was “On debut respectable fourth to Regal Reality in a C4 7F maiden. Settled, travelled and stayed on. Looks a handicap project, probably on Good ground or better or maybe the AW?”. Since then the horse a neck in front of him has won at Chantilly and I am happy to support Grandscape in a maiden especially on this quicker ground. Tate is one of two trainers who I think have a better than expected set of 2yo’s, the other is Robyn Brisland but I digresss.

The Price is Right!

Newbury 3.25 DUKE OF BRONTE Love this horse and I just think he is the wrong price here. Only the three runners for this 13F C2 Conditions race but surely all three are destined for Group success next season. This year’s Mallard winner, Time to Study, will set the fractions with the Messrs Dettori and Crowley sitting behind. This is a step up for Royal Line who is two from two and will need every yard of this trip, I just think Duke of Bronte will have too much speed and he loves upsetting the odds!

Doncaster 3.35 OUTBACK TRAVELLER I backed him last time and due to SkyBet’s generous place terms I collected at 33/1 when he was fifth! He won the Wokingham at Royal Ascot last year but since then he’s tumbled down the weights and has found his way to the King of Sprints, Robert Cowell. This quicker ground will suit him better and who has Cowell booked for this definite hold up horse? The best in the business, Jamie Spencer! I can’t resist. Top weight is the Stewards Cup second Shanghai Glory,  owned by Fitri Hay but NOT ridden by Spencer. A clear message.

Plenty of old friends in opposition. Who’s brave enough to back Hoof It, George Bowen, Naggers, Aeolus, the first time blinkered Al Qahwa etc. etc? Mind you that 50/1 Kickboxer is too big.

Newbury 4.35 REPTON He’s been playing with the big boys in C2 recently without pulling up trees but dropping a grade here I think he can be competitive here. Thought good enough to run in a G3 as a 2yo, he just about gets 7F and on Soft ground over 6F from the Hannon yard that is finishing the season strongly at the price I think is worth a shot.

Doncaster 5.20 HAWRIDGE FLYER Stays 10F, won on Good ground, ridden by the seasons leading amateur Patrick Millman, trained by his super-shrewd dad, gets three pounds as a 3yo, the draw is a nightmare but Hawridge Flyer is a hold up horse and it’s a long straight on Town Moor and at the price I’ll take the chance!

 

#FantasticMrFahey

Doncaster 4.45 ANDOK I don’t think the master of Musley Bank expected getting this far into the season without Andok having won! He was sent off at just 8/1 to beat Defoe in the C2 London Gold Cup off 7lbs higher! I think he’s running better now and C3, 10F, Good ground and off OR80 tick all the boxes for me! Happy to take on an inexperienced favourite who is yet to run on ground this quick and whose only win was a C5 maiden on heavy ground at Epsom! If soft ground loving Red Society beats Andok keep me away from high buildings and sharp knifes!

Newbury 2.50 PRYING PANDORA Twice second this season in a grade higher and I believe what she wants is a long straight to organise her challenge and Newbury fits that bill. I’m tempted at the price but the jolly may not have been out for getting on for a year but she could be Group class and you never know where you are with fillies at this time of year.

Newbury 5.10 GABRIALS STAR Seventeen pounds lower than this time last season, ran his best race for ages last time and the vastly improved Connor Murtagh takes the ride in this C5 16F apprentice handicap. Surely it’s now or never!

 

Lay of the day

Cheltenham 4.55 SLATE RIVER Been hyped up all over the place and Colin Tizzards good horses have all needed the run.

Wednesday October 25th Yarmouth is Great again?

Posted Wednesday October 25th 6pm

In May of this year Jane Carley wrote an article for the Pitchcare magazineGreat Yarmouth Racecourse looking forward” about the recent renovation work at Great Yarmouth racecourse and the aim to return the Norfolk track to its role as the nursery for stars of the future.  Here are the racing bits with the help of “cut and paste”!

“The seaside track moved to its current site, a stone’s throw from the bustling promenade, almost 100 years ago and gained a reputation as an ideal ‘nursery’ for flat racing’s future stars. Track improvements at Great Yarmouth have been given the thumbs-up by trainers and jockeys and are starting to attract increased numbers of runners back to the Norfolk course. “Leading Newmarket trainers like to bring their two-year olds to Great Yarmouth for their maiden races,” explains Clerk of the Course Richard Aldous. “We have a mile straight which is regarded as an honest galloping track that allows horses to get into their stride. It’s a very fair track now – the best horse generally wins.”

But, in recent years, the land on the straight mile had started to move and undulations appeared on the racing surface.

“It could be unbalancing for inexperienced horses and, by 2012, we were starting to get negative feedback, whilst runners also dropped off,” explains Head Groundsman Richard Bradley. In spring 2014, a survey of the course found that some of the undulations were two to four inches in depth. “It doesn’t sound much,” says Richard Aldous, “until you consider that the horses are travelling at 35mph and that the going tends to be good to firm. We observed that the running line had also changed over the years as jockeys sought the best ground, moving from the stand rail to the middle of the track.”

On 20th September 2014, work began to strip the turf, “We got to a furlong from the end towards the back of October 2014, then the heavens opened, and the track flooded,” says Richard Aldous. “It was a very difficult and frustrating time,” recalls Richard Bradley. It was not until the beginning of March 2015 that the job was completed.

Great Yarmouth was back in action in August 2015. The main concern was whether the course was able to withstand the extremes that the elements could produce, and it was not to be. A significant amount of rain fell between races then, due to an incident where two horses slipped and jockeys were unseated because of standing water, the final day and a half of the September Festival was abandoned.

Racing recommenced at Great Yarmouth on 8th June 2016 and Richard Aldous says that the track enjoyed a very good season – despite a blip when an irrigation pipe from the golf course burst under the track during the September Festival.

“The track was finally standing up to racing well. More experienced jockeys were trying different running lines, familiarising themselves with the new surface,” he comments. “The development has been appreciated by trainers and jockeys who acknowledge that we were trying to do our best for horse welfare. We would like full fields and competitive racing, and it is certainly looking up since the development. Runners are increasing all the time and feedback is good, so we are looking forward to the season.””

 

With the powerful Newmarket yards of John Gosden, Sir Michael Stoute, Charlie Appleby and William Haggas now sending plenty of runners I believe the form of these maidens is strong and in some cases exceptional.

Back in September after their Summer festival I profiled two Yarmouth maidens that I felt were laden with future winners, well I thought I saw another strong C4 fillies maiden over 8F on Tuesday.

(I will tack on the September blog to the end of this one in case you missed it)

There were two divisions of this fillies maiden with the first division comfortably by Dramatic Queen on her second outing for William Haggas with James Doyle keeping it simple by making every yard and lengthening 2F out to put the race to bed. John Gosden’s Heather Lark was a solid second on her third outing and will now get a handicap mark and an indication of how the Official Handicapper views the race. Behind, the good sized Frankel filly, Qazyna, was taken all over the place but kept on whilst the H-a-M/Burrows/Crowley Anaakeed was clueless and can only improve.

Prior to racing I thought the second division looked the deeper and indeed the second division was run almost a second quicker, equating to five lengths, with Dramatic Queen Division I winner, strictly on the clock finishing fifth in Division II, although there are some mitigating circumstances.

The race itself Celestin’s was well away but Gerard Mosse clearly had a flight to catch and burnt through the early fractions on Star of Sienna, Celestin’s, Glitterdust and Goldspun towed the main pack along down the centre of the course. The leader was spent at the 2F pole and four went past, the three who were chasing the pace and stand side an ice cold James Spencer on Lady of Shalott who was galloping all over this field. Come with Me, a George Strawbridge owned daughter of Dansili, followed her home under a busy Rob Havlin.”

Lady of Shalott is a big scopey daughter of Camelot, she has won comfortably despite looking around in the final furlong. She is surely Group class and I think the next six home will all win next season at different levels and different trips.

 

2:00 Yarmouth 24 Oct 2017 Breeders Backing Racing EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes (Plus 10 Race) (Div II)

(Class 4) (2yo) (1m3yds) 1m Good To Soft

POS. (DRAW)       HORSE / SP                           JOCKEY / TRAINER                             AGE        WGT       OR          TS            RPR

1 (9)                        Lady Of Shalott 12/1   Jamie Spencer/David Simcock         2              9.0          –             –             79

Held up, headway over 2f out, led over 1f out, ran on well

2 (6) 2¾                 Come With Me 20/1         Robert Havlin/John Gosden             2              9.0 t1    –             –             71

Mid-division, headway over 2f out, ridden, every chance over 1f out, stayed on same pace well inside final furlong (op 16/1 tchd 22/1)

3 (7) 1¾ [4½]        Glitterdust 16/1                 Ted Durcan/Sir Michael Stoute       2              9.0          –             –             67

Chased leaders, ridden and every chance over 1f out, stayed on same pace inside final furlong (op 14/1)

4 (8) ½ [5]              Celestin’s 7/4                      Martin Harley/William Haggas       2              9.0          –             –             66

Chased leader who went clear over 6f out, closed to lead over 1f out, soon ridden and headed, no extra inside final furlong (op 6/4)

5 (5) ½ [5½]           Hameem 6/4F                     Jim Crowley/John Gosden                2              9.0          –             –             65

Slowly into stride, soon pushed along in rear, headway over 1f out, not reach leaders (op 2/1)

6 (10) 1 [6½]         Hourglass (IRE) 7/1           Andrea Atzeni/Marco Botti             2              9.0          –             –             62

Slowly into stride, ran green in rear, ran on inside final furlong, never nearer (tchd 5/1)

7 (1) ¾ [7¼]           Goldspun 28/1                   Fran Berry/Ed Dunlop                        2              9.0          –             –             61

Chased leaders, ridden over 2f out, weakened final furlong (op 25/1)

 

LADY OF SHALOTT     (David Simcock) £80K yearling who caught the eye of Marten Julian who made her a dark 2yo to follow in his Autumn Update, “Third foal and a half-sister to 1m 2f winner Harold Lloyd out of a middle-distance winning

full sister to two winners including US Grade 3 winner Roman Dynasty. Second dam a US Listed stakes winner and a half-sister to seven winners. A scopey filly but very stoutly bred on her distaff side, so one for the longer term.”

Surely an Oaks filly, whether it’s the Epsom variety or something more regional only time will tell.

COME WITH ME         (John Gosden) Wears a black noseband and had a first time tongue tie. Made her debut in the hot HQ maiden won by Wild Illusion, then had a troubled passage at Nottingham over 8½F on ground surely too soft. She is by Dansili out of a Sadlers Wells mare who was G3 class on Good to firm ground at around a mile. Quick ground, 8-10F and a year older she could be useful, especially if she appears on the AW in a handicap (?) or is shipped to the USA.

GLITTERDUST              (Sir Michael Stoute) A Cheveley Park home bred daughter of Intello who has taken a big step forward after running green behind Bye Bye Baby at HQ. She’s a tall leggy filly who did best here of those that chased the pace early on. 8/10F fillies handicap would be the least of her aspirations considering her connections.

CELESTIN’S                 (William Haggas) Not the biggest but a battler who will surely improve for quicker ground, a handicap mark and maybe 7F will be her trip.

HAMEEM                    (John Gosden) €500K yearling purchase at Arqana sent off 6/4 favourite here on debut and must have been impressing on the Gosden gallops. Breeding suggests she won’t be se seen at her best until she races over 12F. Slowly away here but travelled OK, green when asked to pick up but kept on. Definite “first day at school”! Hameem is owned by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s 19yo daughter, Hissa. The Dubai clan are certainly getting the kids involved!

HOURGLASS               (Marco Botti) After the winner probably the second most interesting horse to take from the race. I don’t associate Marco Botti with M Tabor, D Smith & Mrs J Magnier and especially with a daughter of Galileo who is a half-sister to Shamardal! On debut here, bustled along in the rear, progress under hands and heels but when Atzeni gave her a tap she whizzed home! Oodles of promise.

GOLDSPUN                 (Ed Dunlop) Another debutante who chased the pace, every chance two out but pretty clueless and looked after, the “educational” introduction. As a daughter of Nathanial I am sure trainer Ed Dunlop can place her to good effect up in trip but there is plenty of mile pace on the dams side so finding her trip may take a couple of runs.

 

Get them in your trackers!

 

Previous blog – Yarmouth 20 Sep 2017

As I keep hearing whispers from the Sir Michael Stoute yard that “he has at least two as good as, if not better, than Expert Eye” from the September 15 2017 Catching Pigeons column on sportinglife.com I made a note of “One for next week to keep tabs on is Regal Reality from the Sir Michael Stoute yard. The son of Intello, out of Regal Realm, has a couple of entries at Yarmouth and while he’s likely to come forward for his initial racecourse experience, his homework suggests there’s a lot to look forward to in the long term.”

It’s great to see all the top Newmarket yards sending their better 2yo’s to Yarmouth once again. Not only is it flat again but they race down the centre of the course more often than not, with few hard luck stories. Any first time winner from Sir Michael Stoute’s yard has to go in the notebook.

 “Of the first four home only the third, Godolphins Dream Warrior, had run before when third to Elector (another Stoute 2yo debut winner) at Ascot. Regal Reality was out well and made every yard, lengthening at the two furlong pole and seeing the 7F out well. Rich Identity came from midfield with a change of gear to get within half a length of the winner and looks a real prospect. Dream Warrior sat on the leader’s quarters but when asked to challenge was still green and found little. Grandscape had the “educational” ride having settled and travelled well he stayed on with purpose without getting competitive.”

 

Hobgoblin Legendary Ruby Ale / EBF Maiden Stakes (Plus 10 Race) (Div II) Class 4 2yo 7f3yds Soft

POS. (DRAW)       HORSE / SP                           JOCKEY/TRAINER                                               AGE        WGT       OR          TS         RPR

1 (4)                        Regal Reality 9/4                Ryan Moore         Sir Michael Stoute              2              95           –             32          78

Made all, ridden 2f out, found extra over 1f out, kept on well under pressure when pressed inside final furlong, ridden out (op 15/8 tchd 7/4 and 5/2)

2 (7)        ½             Rich Identity 11/2             Andrea Atzeni     Roger Varian                       2              95           –             30          77

Dwelt, soon in touch in midfield, closed to chase leaders over 1f out, switched left and chased winner 1f out, strong challenge inside final furlong, kept on well but always held (op 13/2 tchd 7/1)

3 (2)        2¼ [2¾]  Dream Warrior EvensF     Colm O’Donoghue Charlie Appleby                2              95           –             23          71

Took keen hold, pressed winner, ridden well over 1f out, lost 2nd and unable to quicken under pressure 1f out, outpaced but held on to 3rd inside final furlong (op 7/4)

4 (8)        nk [3]      Grandscape 33/1               P J McDonald       Ed Dunlop                             2              95           –             22          70

Held up in touch in midfield, effort over 1f out, chased leaders 1f out, kept on same pace, no impression inside final furlong

 

REGAL REALITY           (Sir Michael Stoute) A Cheveley Park home bred son of German sire Intello, out of Regal Realm who won two 7F G3’s at Goodwood. Could be a cracking 3yo, 8-10F. No Group entries.

RICH IDENTITY            (Roger Varian) Home bred Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum colt by Dubawi out of a Daylami mare suggests he’ll be wanting 10F+ further down the line. Showed a turn of foot on debut at Yarmouth having raced keenly to get within half a length of Regal Reality.

DREAM WARRIOR       (Charlie Appleby) Two runs, twice finished third to a Sir Michael Stoute debutante winner, Elector at Ascot and Regal Reality at Yarmouth. Son of Dubawi out of a Group 1 “Beverley D” winning mare, I’m a Dreamer. Should have no issues with 10F next season, just immature and could be one to improve through handicaps although of course Godolphin seem to have some larger targets.

Saturday, 26 May 2018 – 4:10 Curragh Irish 2,000 Guineas (Group 1) (Entire Colts & Fillies) (1m)

Saturday, 02 June 2018 – 4:30 Epsom Investec Derby (Group 1) (Entire Colts & Fillies) (1m4f)

GRANDSCAPE                         (Ed Dunlop) US Pedigree, £72K son of Lemon Drop Kid. On debut respectable fourth to Regal Reality in a C4 7F maiden. Settled, travelled and stayed on. Looks a handicap project, probably on Good ground or better or maybe the AW?

 

 

2:30 Yarmouth 21 Sep 2017

“Yarmouth September 20th C4 6F 2yo fillies maiden. I like the look of this race, so much so that I have put the first five home in my tracker. Flying Sparkle was one from one having beaten Hunni (Won a C2 6F nursery at HQ next time) on debut over 5F in a C5 at Windsor and had to give three pounds to the other four. Flying Sparkle was prominent throughout, quickened approaching the furlong pole and the other four all made up ground to varying degrees. Beauty Filly picked up in the style of a useful filly to win by a length in the hands of Ryan Moore. Left Alone running in the second colours of Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum, he also owns the winner, came from further back and had to weave his way through, so a creditable third. This was Rozanne’s third run, having run in two strong maidens behind the likes of Teppal and Dark Rose Angel, and she showed a turn of foot without troubling the front three. Bidding War had the educational, hands and heels ride, travelling in the back three, making her ground up under hands and heels on the far side and got close enough without Martin Harley getting busy. The time wasn’t earth shattering, Topspeed 46, the RPR for the winner was 79, so it will be interesting to see if the form is franked.”

 

Ken Lindsay Memorial/EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes (Plus 10 Race) (Class 4) (2yo) (6f3yds) 6f Good To Soft

POS. (DRAW)       HORSE / SP                                           JOCKEY /TRAINER                              AGE        WGT       OR          TS            RPR

1 (10)                     Beauty Filly 6/4F                Ryan Moore         William Haggas   2              90           –             47          79

Held up in touch in midfield, effort entering final 2f, ridden to challenge over 1f out, led just inside final furlong, ran on well, ridden out (op 13/8 tchd 11/8)

2 (1)        1              Flying Sparkle (IRE) 11/4                 Jamie Spencer     Michael Bell         2              93           –             46          79

Led until over 2f out, chased leader until ridden to lead again over 1f out, driven and headed inside final furlong, stayed on same pace final 100yds (op 4/1 tchd 5/2)

3 (11)     nse [1]   Left Alone 5/1                                     James Doyle        Hugo Palmer        2              90           –             42          76 Held up in touch towards rear, not clear run and switched right over 1f out, headway and switched left inside final furlong, ran on strongly final 100yds (op 4/1)

4 (9)        ½ [1½]    Rozanne (IRE) 33/1                           J F Egan                 Jeremy Noseda   2              90           –             40          74

Held up in touch, ridden and headway entering final furlong, switched left inside final furlong, stayed on well (op 28/1)

5 (3)        1¼ [2¾] Bidding War 20/1                               Martin Harley      James Tate          2              90           –             35          71

In touch in last trio, ridden and headway over 2f out, chased leaders over 1f out, unable to quicken and kept on same pace inside final furlong (op 16/1)

PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY The market suggested Beauty Filly was the one to beat in the six-furlong fillies’ novice stakes and so it proved with the William Haggas-trained daughter of Invincible Spirit registering a length success on what could be the start of a bright career.

BEAUTY FILLY                  (William Haggas) A £280K daughter of Invincible Spirit who was expected on debut and duly obliged at 11/8. Well regarded by connections.

FLYING SPARKLE           (Michael Bell) Cost £70K and looks money well spent as she did well to beat Hunni at Windsor and could well have “bumped into one” at Yarmouth although with her penalty would come out as the best horse in the race. Thoroughly deserves a step up in grade with Redcar a suitable target.

Saturday, 07 October 2017 – 3:20 Redcar totepool Two-Year-Old Trophy (Listed Race) (6f)

LEFT ALONE                    (Hugo Palmer) €120K daughter of first season sire, Reckless Abandon. Good size about her and certainly made her ground up comfortably. Her dam was a 10F winner with plenty of form on the AW. Should get a mile in time.

ROZANNE                         (Jeremy Noseda) Home bred daughter of Canford Cliffs who with hindsight taken part in three strong fillies maidens. Could go handicapping off OR75 and I would be disappointed if that wasn’t a winning mark.

Friday, 06 October 2017 – 6:15 Chelmsford (AW) Bet toteJACKPOT At betfred.com Nursery Handicap (6f)

BIDDING WAR                            (James Tate) £110K daughter of Champs Elysses who will want all of 10F as a 3yo and if her siblings are anything to go by she should be an OR90+ rated filly. On debut was rear early but made her ground up well on the wing, far side, all hands and heels to finish a close up fifth. Tate seems to have a yard improving in quality and trains this filly for his main patron Saeed Manana.