Category Archives: Adam Webb

2014 Hennessy Gold Cup Preview

One of the highlights of the National Hunt season takes place on Saturday with the 58th running of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. The race has one of the richest reputations within the sport, horses such as Mandarin, Mill House, Arkle, Burrough Hill Lad, One Man, Suny Bay and Denman all have their name on the winners’ trophy.

Before the analysis, we did our usual video preview in which we covered the Hennessy Gold Cup in depth.

The main talking point surrounding this year’s renewal is the Willie Mullins trained Djakadam and his price which is currently as short as 4/1 is far too short. Whilst I like the horse, throwing a five year old straight into one of the most competitive handicap chases in the sport could potentially ruin him.

Djakadam's price is plenty short enough for a horse with his inexperience.
Djakadam’s price is plenty short enough for a horse with his inexperience.

His chase debut at Leopardstown had some scrappy jumping but his ability saw him home. He returned in January in a Grade Two where he jumped much better when beating Bright New Dawn before being thrown in at the deep end in the JLT at the Festival, where he was travelling well when landing too steeply and unseating Paul Townend at the fourth last. If he is a Gold Cup horse then he should be winning this and whilst it’s understandable why connections have targeted the race, as the likelihood is he will never run off his mark of 142 again, his inexperience is a huge worry. The other big worries, although he has shaped like a stayer, stepping up from two and a half miles to three and a quarter miles looks substantial at this stage in his career and for an inexperienced horse, he could easily pull his chances away due to freshness.

SMAD PLACE comes into this with a huge chance for in form trainer Alan King who saddled a treble today at Newbury. He should be three out of four over fences but a misjudgement at the last on chasing debut at Huntingdon meant Robert Thornton departed unceremoniously. A win next time out at Exeter restored the confidence before going on to win at Newbury in desperate ground where he beat Sam Winner getting three pounds.

Smad Place has an ideal profile for the race and should go close.
Smad Place has an ideal profile for the race and should go close.

His final start as a novice came in the RSA Chase where he jumped superb and travelled ominously well but just found one that was slightly better on the day in O’Faolains Boy. Both of those pulled six lengths clear of Morning Assembly back in third and it was heart-breaking for connections as he did everything right through the race only to just go down by a neck. The form of the race has already looks pretty strong with the fifth Sam Winner defying top weight at the Open meeting and the sixth Carlingford Lough winning the Grade One novice at Punchestown where he beat Ballycasey.

This has been the plan since March. He goes really well fresh having proven this when winning a handicap hurdle off a big weight at Ascot in January 2012 in impressive style, he has a touch of class which is all important in a race like this and jumps really well. The booking of Denis O’Regan looks a big positive as well as his riding style would really suit the horse.

King’s other runner Midnight Prayer improved plenty last season with his season culminating with a win in the National Hunt Chase. His main early season target is the Welsh National but Tom Bellamy takes a useful five pounds off and he could easily run into a place.

Philip Hobbs has been in tremendous form recently and the apple of his eye Fingal Bay is his sole representative. The last time we saw him jumping fences at Exeter in December 2012, he ran out and crashed through the rail dramatically after looking a particularly awkward ride for Richard Johnson.

Fingal Bay is a fascinating contender. Can he continue the excellent run of Philip Hobbs?
Fingal Bay is a fascinating contender. Can he continue the excellent run of Philip Hobbs?

He returned after a fourteen month absence to carry top weight in a Pertemps Qualifier at Exeter where he beat stablemate If In Doubt before defying the handicapper in the Pertemps Final itself where he just denied Southfield Theatre and Grand National winner Pineau De Re in a driving finish. He then stepped up to Grade One company at Punchestown where he finished fifth behind Jetson who had chased him home in the Pertemps.

One thing of note, the handicapper has reassessed Fingal Bay and given him the same mark over fences that he has achieved over hurdles (mark was previously 143).  With limited chasing experience and the memories of Exeter firmly in the mind, he is overlooked however there is no denying the horse is hugely talented.

Many Clouds has been laid out for this race since the Reynoldstown.
Many Clouds has been laid out for this race since the Reynoldstown.

For some time now, Many Clouds has been considered the ideal candidate for the Hennessy. Always looked upon as a horse that could reach the top by connections, this is the season for him to finally fulfil the potential he has shown in his career so far. His chasing career has been up and down with two wins at Carlisle and Wetherby, the latter performance being notable with the other two contenders Indian Castle and Pinerolo both going on to frank the form. He ran a big race in the Reynoldstown Novice Chase at Ascot when second to subsequent RSA winner O’Faolains Boy before taking his chance in the RSA itself. The form figure says he was brought down by the fall of Don Cossack but he had made a shuddering mistake at the same fence.

He was possibly over the top by Aintree but still ran creditably enough considering previous runs at the meeting. He returned at Carlisle in the Colin Parker Memorial where he beat Eduard and Gold Cup fancy Holywell although the latter was entitled to need the run. His profile for the race is definitely interesting and whilst he shapes like a stayer, evidence suggests the trip could be a worry as his best form has come at two and a half miles. Whilst he will travel through the race strongly, he could be vulnerable to stronger stayers.

Last year’s first and second return again in Triolo D’Alene and Rocky Creek. The former carries joint top weight and is ten pounds higher now in the handicap. On both his starts after in the Gold Cup and the Grand National, he ran as though his breathing was a big issue. He has had a breathing operation over the summer however needs much better ground to be seen at his best.

Triolo D'Alene and Rocky Creek fighting out last year's finish.
Triolo D’Alene and Rocky Creek fighting out last year’s finish.

Rocky Creek can definitely reverse form with Triolo D’Alene after a stop start campaign with various issues from minor colic to ringworm which forced him out of the Gold Cup. He ran a fantastic race in the Grand National where he jumped and travelled brilliantly for Noel Fehily before getting tired between the last two fences. Also noteworthy is that he was the only horse carrying above eleven stone in the first ten which makes his effort all the more creditable, especially with his problems. The run in the JNWine Champion Chase behind Roads To Riches will have blown the cobwebs away and if being able to finish off his races better after a breathing operation, he is a serious contender.

Paul Nicholls other runner Unioniste has the huge positive of Noel Fehily booked to ride. After showing promise on his return last season in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and at Aintree when winning a Listed contest, he failed to progress after running too free in the Lexus Chase when beaten by Bobs Worth and could be considered a disappointment when third in the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster behind The Rainbow Hunter when looking a handicap snip. He also ended his season with a lamentable effort behind Duke Of Lucca at Aintree on Grand National day. Whilst he looks a strong stayer, he probably needs the outing and will come on for the run considerably.

The Druids Nephew has been a revitalised horse since joining Neil Mulholland in the summer after leading Andy Turnell. He won effortlessly at Huntingdon on his return to action before being given a questionable ride at Cheltenham when second to Sam Winner. Beforehand, connections were concerned about whether he’d see out the trip but he saw it out thoroughly and with a more forceful ride, he could have won. The worry here is whether the hard race two weeks ago has taken plenty out of him.

What A Warrior has improved plenty for a switch to Dan Skelton.
What A Warrior has improved plenty for a switch to Dan Skelton.

Another horse to be rekindled by a change in stable is What A Warrior. Having moved from Nigel Twiston Davies to the emerging talent that is Dan Skelton, he has improved twenty pounds with a win at Ludlow followed by an excellent all the way success at Ascot where he fended off Black Thunder. The softer ground here is a concern but he is well worth a go here and is one of the likely front runners.

Merry King is one that stays longer than the mother in law and on the whole, he was hugely consistent in staying handicap chases last season. He was fifth in this race a year ago before finishing sixth in the Welsh National. A third in the Peter Marsh at Haydock behind Wychwoods Brook followed before an effort worth forgiving in the Grand National Trial back at the same track where he was badly hampered and wasn’t able to get back into a crucial rhythm. The season ended with a fourth in the Scottish National.

His return to action this season started nicely enough when third behind What A Warrior in the United House Gold Cup at Ascot. He has the assistance of AP McCoy in the saddle but he can be a tricky customer as he likes to run in snatches and drop himself out before running on again. He would have place claims at best if putting his best foot forward.

Annacotty could struggle if taken on for the lead.
Annacotty could struggle if taken on for the lead.

Annacotty was a Grade One winner of the Feltham at Kempton on Boxing Day last season when fitted with blinkers for the first time when allowed to dictate matters at his own pace. His run at Cheltenham on Trials Day was a brave effort off top weight in a novice handicap chase behind Indian Castle. He then disappointed in the RSA when taken on for the lead by Corrin Wood and jumped with a lack of fluency. Throughout the contest, he kept leaving his back legs in fences and didn’t look happy from an early stage. His comeback run at Kempton was promising enough behind Fox Appeal and Theatre Guide but he had a tendency to wander about before his fences suggesting the reapplication of the blinkers will help.

The big worry with him is whether he can get his own way out in front but with What A Warrior another confirmed front runner, he could easily get flustered like he did on several occasions last season, most notably at Ascot where he made several mistakes on the way round. Whilst he won a Grade One last season, the Feltham and the Hennessy Gold Cup are two completely different races and with a bigger emphasis on jumping here, it’s likely he will struggle.

Ballynagour has a big question mark about him seeing out the trip.
Ballynagour has a big question mark about him seeing out the trip.

Ballynagour is more renowned for having form at shorter distances and for having his issues in the past. His last three starts though have seen him put together three consistent efforts including when absolutely laughing at a competitive handicap field in the Byrne Group Plate before two solid efforts when third twice in Grade One company behind Boston Bob at Aintree and Sizing Europe at Punchestown. The big question here is whether he will see out the trip and on the current ground, it doesn’t look likely.

Wychwoods Brook was an unfancied winner of the Peter Marsh before returning to Haydock in the Grand National Trial where he was out on his feet when falling three out. He had a nice pipe opener over hurdles at Worcester but he doesn’t strike as the type who would appreciate a race like this.

Monbeg Dude's jumping has improved considerably and has a good each way chance.
Monbeg Dude’s jumping has improved considerably and has a good each way chance.

Monbeg Dude is a consistent staying handicap chaser who showed himself to be in excellent heart when second to Victors Serenade on his return at Chepstow over three miles. That distance is probably sharp enough for him and the softer ground here poses no concerns for this former Welsh National winner. Whilst he can be ridden patiently, it could pay for him to be ridden a bit handier than normal as rarely, winners of the Hennessy come from the back of the field. If he is ridden this way he definitely has a big chance of making the frame as his jumping has improved plenty.

Vino Griego and Via Sundown both represent Gary Moore. The former has looked a proper stayer and this big field test should suit him well after an eyecatching reappearance in the United House Gold Cup whilst the latter won a novice hurdle on desperate ground at Exeter recently but may find this a bit too hot to handle so soon in his career.

Houblon Des Obeaux looks a big price for a horse that goes well fresh.
Houblon Des Obeaux looks a big price for a horse that goes well fresh.

Le Reve has a reputation for being a scrappy jumper but put it all together when winning easily on his first start this season at Sandown but this represents another big step up. The joint top weight HOUBLON DES OBEAUXS looks overpriced on the pick of his form. He goes extremely well fresh, having proved this when running away with the United House Gold Cup last year. He was sixth in this a year ago when held up off the pace before winning the Silver Cup back at Ascot. The concern is that he is a better horse right handed however he does have useful form going left handed including when a close second to Rocky Creek at Warwick in a novice chase. He ran well enough in Grade One company last season and whilst carrying top weight here, he did the same in the Silver Cup. At 33/1, he looks overpriced and has a big each way chance.

Conclusion

Whilst Djakadam could be extremely well handicapped off 142, his price has absolutely no value and for his inexperience, you’d be a brave man to be taking 7/2. My idea of the winner is SMAD PLACE who is a second season novice, has a touch of class and jumps really well. The form of Alan King currently is red hot with four winners over the last couple of days and Denis O’Regan will suit the horse perfectly. I believe he is good enough to have a say in the Gold Cup so it would be disappointing if he wasn’t at least in the frame. Of those near the head of the market, Rocky Creek poses the main danger having had a much better preparation whilst Monbeg Dude and HOUBLON DES OBEAUXS at bigger prices could outrun their odds.

  1. Smad Place
  2. Rocky Creek
  3. Houblon Des Obeauxs
  4. Monbeg Dude

2014 Cheltenham Open Meeting Review

After one of the best weekends I have had for a very long time, National Hunt is officially back and proper with the Open Meeting throwing up some fantastic racing full of real quality plus racing over the Irish Sea testing the emotions of even the hardiest of fans.

Before I get into the analysis of Cheltenham, it would be wrong to not start with a mention of the immensely sad news that broke yesterday morning that Dessie Hughes had died aged 71. Whilst it was known that he had been ill for some time, the news was still a huge shock to everyone involved in racing.

The minute’s silence observed at Cheltenham was first class and the piece shown on the big screen with Alastair Down bringing a lump to the throat. Seeing those old Cheltenham winners he had including as a jockey with Davy Lad and Monksfield plus as a trainer with dual Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace. His story giving the reminder that we cannot take everything in this sport for granted with Keiran Kelly, the first jockey to ride him to success at the Festival in the Royal & Sunalliance Hurdle, tragically killed in a fall at Kilbeggan in August 2003.

Earlier on in the day when Racemaking, an Irish gentleman called Eamonn was chatting with a couple of us when we broke the news to him that Dessie had passed on. His face just dropped. The emotion was plain to see. He left us with words that summed up the man. “One of the true gentlemen of the sport.” That sentiment was echoed around social media with a huge outpouring of those paying their respects to a fine trainer. His last winner was The Tullow Tank, a horse destined to be something very special and it would be hugely fitting if he were to win the Drinmore at Fairyhouse in a couple of weeks’ time.

With the amount of racing on over the last couple of days, I have only selected particular races to talk about, one of those placed at the end of the blog turning into a rant about something that has irritated me for quite some time.

Champagne West won stylishly on chasing debut. Bigger targets now await.
Champagne West won stylishly on chasing debut. Bigger targets now await.

Although the two and a half mile novice chase turned somewhat into a farce with the low sun causing six fences to be omitted, it was a pleasing enough display from Champagne West who jumped economically to see off the enigma that is Colour Squadron who travelled into the race strongly but again he hung going up the hill. Considering three miles would seem to be the winner’s ideal distance, he showed enough pace here and for the time being, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him stay at two and a half miles. On this evidence, he will definitely have a say in one of the big novice chases at the Festival. Urban Hymn looked to lack a gear change at a crucial time and wouldn’t have been helped by the omitted fences. He will ideally be suited over further whilst Splash Of Ginge and Dell’ Arca would look to want better ground over fences.

Blaklion leads Port Melon and Parlour Games over the last.
Blaklion leads Port Melon and Parlour Games over the last.

Parlour Games caused a surprise in the Grade Two Hyde Novices Hurdle for Barry Geraghty and John Ferguson when claiming the scalp of Blaklion. This ex-flat performer for Godolphin was a former winner of the Melrose at York and saw out the distance nicely whilst handling the softer conditions well. Blaklion attempted to make all the running at his own pace and inevitably was done for a turn of foot by the winner but his likeable attitude continues to impress and will be winning a good deal more over the winter months.

Port Melon ran a promising race just like last year where he travelled well for most of the race. He will hopefully go chasing sooner rather than later and should excel over the larger obstacles. Champagne Present looks a horse for the long term and in better company travelled well before a mistake two out knocked his equilibrium. The ground was probably on the softer side for him as well and is one firmly to keep on the right side of.

Balthazar King showing his courage and determination by winning for the eighth time at Prestbury Park.
Balthazar King showing his courage and determination by winning for the eighth time at Prestbury Park.

The cross country has been Balthazar King’s race at Cheltenham and yet again he proved himself to be too good for the opposition, despite hating the ground and taking a couple of chances on the way round. His exuberance is an absolute joy to watch but it can leave you with your heart in mouth at times. Straight after the race, Philip Hobbs was quick to note that the defence of Festival crown was unlikely and he would prefer to head to the Grand National a fresh horse. Two reasons would put me off backing him for the race.

Although he does go well fresh, this would be a big worry. Especially when you look at one key trend that had stood up in recent years. Winners of the Grand National have had a run somewhere within 50 days of the race and whilst some horses have ran well having not run in that timeframe including Mely Moss in 2000 and Alvarado in this year’s renewal, it underlines that you need a horse that has ideally had a run somewhere. Secondly, it would take a herculean effort for him to win off his handicap mark of 159 as he would be near the head of the weights.

Uncle Junior ran an excellent race again at the veteran age of 13 to chase home Balthazar King but on recent past evidence, he seems happier in the conditions events as opposed to the handicaps where he carries plenty of weight. Sire Collonges ran a much better race than on his return at the Showcase meeting with the first time headgear rekindling the old enthusiasm. He could either go for the Becher Chase or return for the handicap he won a year ago whilst Any Currency will return after another good effort in fourth.

Morito Du Berlais is going in the right direction and will improve further as the season progresses.
Morito Du Berlais is going in the right direction and will improve further as the season progresses.

The concluding intermediate handicap hurdle on Friday ran in memory of Michael Scudamore has been won by some nice types in the past including the likes of Punchestowns and Grand Crus. Morito Du Berlais has been a revelation since his wind operation over the summer and continued his progression beating Knight Of Noir and Cup Final. The winner holds an entry on Saturday at Haydock and it will be interesting to see his new mark which comes out tomorrow. The runner up Knight Of Noir travelled really well for Tom Scudamore and just couldn’t quite get past the winner on the run in. He looks exciting for big handicap hurdles and a step up to three miles will suit whilst Cup Final ran a nice race on his return considering he probably wanted better ground plus made a bad mistake going down the far side.

Kings Palace impressed with his jumping as the race progressed.
Kings Palace impressed with his jumping as the race progressed.

Saturday’s staying novice chase on paper looked a mouth-watering contest where you could make a case for all five runners. In the end, it was the debutant Kings Palace who got off the mark at the first time of asking seeing off Sausalito Sunrise. Receiving five pounds from the whole field and tongue tied for the first time, he reached for some of his fences early on but on the whole he jumped extremely well and more importantly, he settled far better than he did over hurdles.

Soon after the race, the quotes from bookmakers came rolling out for the RSA Chase with some firms having him as short as 8/1, which at this moment in time, looks plenty short enough. David Pipe said afterwards that they were working backwards from the race but there’s still plenty to pass under the bridge before we even reach the Festival.

Sausalito Sunrise emerged with plenty of credit and looks a thorough stayer with a bit of quality about him. The mistake he made two out didn’t help but he stayed on resolutely up the hill and remains an exciting prospect for the Hobbs team. Drop Out Joe was outpaced at the top of the hill before staying on into a distant third. He is a really good jumper of a fence and ideally, the National Hunt Chase is where we would be likely to see him come March whilst Knock House would probably appreciate better ground after attempting to go with the front two before fading.

It was hard work for Sam Twiston-Davies but he never gave up on Sam Winner.
It was hard work for Sam Twiston-Davies but he never gave up on Sam Winner.

The Murphy Group Handicap Chase looked a competitive race on paper however perseverance was the main attribute needed and Sam Twiston-Davies had that by the bucket load on the top weight Sam Winner. As early as the fifth fence, Twiston-Davies was niggling at him to keep interested as he wasn’t travelling that well and wasn’t taking a cut at his fences but he never gave up and amazingly came on the bridle running down to the third last before showing bags of stamina to see off The Druids Nephew. Whilst his jumping early on was sticky, he is normally a very sound jumper which he showed late on in the race apart from the final fence and the obvious long term target is the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree but he may not be suited by a big field and with his idleness, that could be a concern for him.

The Druids Nephew ran a solid race in defeat and travelled really well on the ground which was a concern beforehand and saw out the trip really well for a doubtful stayer off a career high mark. There looks to be improvement yet to come and back on a sounder surface, a staying handicap chase is well within his region. Saint Are ran a fantastic race for new connections and looked the force of old as he travelled with plenty of zest. He is one that ideally wants good ground to be seen at his best and long term; a race like the Scottish National looks tailor made for him.

Cape Tribulation is still well handicapped on his best form.
Cape Tribulation is still well handicapped on his best form.

Of the rest, recent Market Rasen winner Master Neo ran well from the front and from five pounds out of the handicap. A drop back to three miles wouldn’t do any harm whilst Cape Tribulation was given a strange ride as he travelled well at the rear of the field but never seemed to be put in the race by Brian Hughes. He still looks very well treated on his old form and a race like the Welsh National on similar ground would be an interesting target for this former Argento winner.

The Paddy Power Gold Cup was the centrepiece of the meeting and Paul Nicholls won it for the second time with Caid Du Berlais who was nearly taken out on account of the ground getting up to deny the brave John’s Spirit on the line under a power packed Sam Twiston-Davies, showing why Nicholls made his decision to make him stable jockey. On only his fourth chase start, he jumped nicely and there looks be further improvement to come as a handicap chaser with the race in December probably the next ideal target. From there, we shall find out whether he’s up to Grade One standard or a very good handicap chaser.

Caid Du Berlais gets up on the line to deny John's Spirit a famous double in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Caid Du Berlais gets up on the line to deny John’s Spirit a famous double in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Both John’s Spirit and Oscar Whisky deserve a mention together as they both ran cracking races off joint top weight. Given yet another brilliant ride by Richie McLernon, the waiting tactics on John’s Spirit worked just as well as a year ago and the softer conditions didn’t affect him. This performance suggests he is capable of winning Graded races at this distance with the Ryanair looking the likely target. Oscar Whisky was well backed just before the race and was hampered three out before staying on up the hill. Although he ran extremely well here, he could be difficult to place with the firepower in Henderson’s yard.

Present View jumped superbly and travelled like the winner for the majority of the contest before fading back into third on ground that was described as being on the soft side for him. His trainer Jamie Snowden suggested in his blog that the Topham Trophy in the spring could be the ideal race for him and with the way he went on Saturday, he could be a lethal force over those fences.

If Buywise could put in a clear round without jumping blemishes then there is no doubt that he will win a big prize. He didn’t make an error to the degree of the one made two out at the Festival behind Present View but some sticky jumps cost him again. He could easily turn out in the Hennessy and the longer distance should suit him well.

Champion Court shaped well for a long way before not getting up the hill again. After suggesting that he was out of love with the game last time, a spell hunting and cheekpieces brought back the old enthusiasm. He would appreciate better ground, as would Edgardo Sol who will probably go down in the weights and could be dangerous in the spring.

Golden Doyen showed a really good attitude to beat Hargam.
Golden Doyen showed a really good attitude to beat Hargam.

Golden Doyen showed a really likeable attitude to get back up to beat the former Aga Khan representative Hargam. The winner was yet another one for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson and comments about the Triumph Hurdle afterwards seem realistic with him although it is a dangerous time to consider backing a horse for the race with the big stables having contenders that may not even be seen until after Christmas. Hargam ran a really nice race for a horse that would appreciate much better ground and jumped nicely as well.

The mares’ bumper was won impressively by Bitofapuzzle under a lovely front running ride by Noel Fehily for Harry Fry. She now goes novice hurdling and will be an exciting addition to Fry’s novices. The other horse of note from this bumper was the Gordon Elliott trained Dancing Meadows who was jumping over the undulations going down the far side and came down the hill awkwardly before making ground up late on. Back on a more conventional track, she is worth another chance in a bumper.

Garde Le Victoire fends off Vantieux to give Philip Hobbs his fourth Greatwood Hurdle success.
Garde Le Victoire fends off Vantieux to give Philip Hobbs his fourth Greatwood Hurdle success.

Sunday’s Greatwood Hurdle went the way of Garde Le Victoire who was given a brilliant front running ride by Richard Johnson who took the initiative on ground feared too soft for him to beat the well backed Vaniteux who put up a great effort under top weight. Both ran in the Supreme back in March and gave that race yet another boost. The winner did very well considering the huge worry about the ground and has plenty of options including novice chasing however after yesterday’s success, staying over hurdles is probably going to be the plan.

The runner up Vaniteux also had a slight concern about the ground having disappointed at Kempton in December but handled it perfectly fine. The cause for concern was the fact that Barry Geraghty, normally the first jockey to go round the outside in search for the best ground decided to go round the inside which looked a strange decision, especially as he raced alone going to the final flight. On better ground, he still remains a very exciting horse and if he comes out of this well, the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle could be the race to go for however that could potentially come too quick for him.

In behind, Clondaw Warrior has ran well but getting plenty of weight from the front two and although he looks to not need much improvement to win a big handicap, I feel there are other handicappers in his yard that could be better treated for the bigger races later in the campaign. Both Blue Heron and Pine Creek have ran solid races, the latter returning from a lengthy absence and off his mark has a big handicap prize in him.

Further back in the pack, Katgary again deserves a mention on this blog as he was niggled going down the hill before coming back on the bridle however when the leaders kicked he couldn’t go with them. The ground wouldn’t have been in his favour and he is crying out for a step up in trip. When that happens he will be a very interesting proposition.

Uxizandre was faultless in the jumping department for Barry Geraghty.
Uxizandre was faultless in the jumping department for Barry Geraghty.

On the rest of the card, Uxizandre jumped really well with the cheekpieces back on in the Schloer Chase and looks set to head to Ireland over Christmas whilst the runner up Simply Ned will prefer better ground but proved he is worthy of Graded chase prizes.

Vyta Du Roc was given a lovely patient ride by Barry Geraghty who allowed for time to fill the horse up before challenging Emerging Talent who has ran really well considering his jumping was scratchy at times. Long term, Emerging Talent would be the one to keep on the right side of, especially when he goes chasing. In the same race, Commissioned hated the ground and will be a much better horse on good ground in the spring.

The final race on the card went to Definitly Red who defied a penalty to win nicely for Steve Gollings and man of the meeting Richard Johnson who steered him to his seventh success over the three day period. He is yet another addition to Gollings’ list of novice hurdlers. Before I cover the last part in the blog, I shall put the eyecatchers part here as it fits in before the rant underneath.

Eyecatchers

Port Melon – Already in the horses to follow piece, he should hopefully now go novice chasing where he could be a key player in the top ranks.

Morito Du Berlais – Has gone the right way since his wind operation and will still be dangerous after being reassessed.

Drop Out Joe – One who will appreciate a stamina test in time, NH Chase a suitable aim.

Saint Are – On good ground, he is well capable of another big handicap win.

Cape Tribulation – Given a quiet ride and still leniently handicapped on best form.

Present View – Two words. Topham Trophy.

Dancing Meadows – Can definitely win a bumper on a more conventional track.

Katgary – Step up in distance will help.

The last race that will be covered is the two mile novice chase which was won tenaciously by Dunraven Storm, again for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson. However, the main talking point about the race was the ride given to Vibrato Valtat by Sam Twiston-Davies, which caused split opinions on social media. Before the race, a tweet from someone very familiar to the site got some of the reaction spot on.

Normally when reviewing racing, I would tend to shy away from issues like this however this is one rare exception to that as it deserves addressing. Those who know Vibrato Valtat know very well that he is one of the trickiest horses in training to ride in a race. Especially as he does nothing once he hits the front and needs to be ridden with the most exaggerated confidence to get him in front right on the line, having thrown away races including the Swinton at Haydock plus the conditional jockeys handicap hurdle at the Showcase meeting. Those that do know realise he will always be a risky betting proposition.

You can argue that he gave the leaders too much leeway, however with the horse as difficult as he is, he couldn’t just give him a kick in the belly and go with Dunraven Storm, the only option is to sit still for as long as you can. When he went for his effort, the horse picked up as he had something to chase but on past evidence, had he been closer and passed Dunraven Storm, the likely fact is he would have stopped allowing that rival to power back past.

Immediately post-race, the amount of ‘Tipster’ accounts & pocket talkers were all in uproar about how a terrible ride it was and how on earth is Twiston-Davies stable jockey for Paul Nicholls. To answer the latter point, go watch his rides on Sam Winner and Caid Du Berlais from Saturday. The slight skeptic in myself wondering if it was the wrong decision to have Sam as stable jockey, believing it to be a couple of years too early, was proven to be way off the mark.

On the former point, I found it disturbing at the fact some of these ‘Tipster’ pages suggest a lack of knowledge about the sport they are meant to be ‘experts’ on with giving out ‘tips’. People trying to get into our sport may see these ‘Tipster’ pages as a way of gaining interest, with some of them amassing a huge following, and would trust their judgement as they appear to be ‘experts’ on the subject matter. Unfortunately with some of their outlooks upon the sport, new potential fans would gain a negative appearance from the outset.

The sad part about all of this is Twiston-Davies gets this on a regular basis. Mainly from pocket talkers who wish to vent their anger for the sake of doing so. Don’t get me wrong either, there have been times in the past where I have questioned or voiced an opinion about a poor ride but there’s criticism and there’s unacceptable abuse. Sadly, the latter seems to pop up more prominently and as seen below, the modern era with social media can be a very disheartening place, especially for sporting stars. It shouldn’t have to be like this for someone as promising as Twiston-Davies and his fellow riders to have to continually prove themselves to ‘critics’.

To end the blog on two happier notes, I spent Saturday and Sunday at Cheltenham in the company of the RaceMakers, organised by the enthusiastic John Hanley who has worked his socks off to make sure the initiative set up last year was a huge success with both racecourses and the public. This year, it has picked up substantially with the time and effort gone into it second to none. In two weeks’ time, Newbury’s Hennessy meeting plays host to the RaceMakers for all three days and I shall be there on Hennessy day, sharing my love and passion for the sport.

It was fantastic to meet a variety of racegoers, young and old who all shared the same passion. Being situated by the Best Mate statue which had no plaque due to the renovation work and answering the most common question asked “Which horse is this?”, seeing people’s faces light up at the mention of the horse makes you realise how much the sport means to people.

The other happy note links with how much the sport means to people. After the two mile novice chase, the reaction from the crowd when Duke Of Navan rose to his feet was heart-warming to say the least and to see his lass in tears on the Channel Four coverage speaks volumes to how much people genuinely care about the welfare and safety of those taking part in the sport we love. At around the same moment, Hurricane Fly was roared home by the stands to win his twentieth Grade One, a mammoth achievement by a true jumping great. Moments like that are just priceless.

Charlie Hall Chase Weekend Review

What a weekend of racing it has been.  With top class action and something that everyone can enjoy from international action in Santa Anita to Group races on the flat at Newmarket to some top quality jumping action from across UK and Ireland. This blog will concentrate on the National Hunt action that took place over the weekend with Saturday’s action from Ascot, Wetherby and Down Royal plus a race from Carlisle on Sunday.

This list will also include two eyecatchers from last weekend’s action at Aintree as the blog didn’t come together at all last week.

Ascot’s return to National Hunt racing was a stark contrast to two weeks ago when Champions Day was staged on desperate ground with yesterday’s action on ground that would have been far more suited to two weeks ago. In saying that, jockeys reported that it was beautiful jumping ground and some course records were broken throughout the day.

Jolly's Cracked It taking the last flight on his way to victory.
Jolly’s Cracked It taking the last flight on his way to victory.

Jolly’s Cracked It was an emphatic winner of the novice hurdle having travelled beautifully throughout for Nick Scholfield and put the race to bed in a professional manner despite kicking the last two flights out of the ground. He is one that should be better over a longer distance and trainer Harry Fry already wants to return to Ascot in three weeks for a race in a better grade for this lightly raced son of Astarabad. Clondaw Banker wasn’t particularly fluent at his hurdles and would look to appreciate further than the minimum two miles. Light Well ran really well off a 612 day absence and will now get a handicap mark over hurdles where he could potentially pick up a nice race whilst the well regarded Our Kaempfer ran far too free and will need to learn to settle.

November is traditionally described as Venetia Williams time and The Clock Leary proved this point by jumping and galloping some decent rivals into the ground in the novice handicap chase. Considering the liveliness of the ground was a slight worry, he dismayed those fears with consummate ease. A step up in grade wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world with the runner up considered to be pretty smart by connections. It will be interesting to see what the handicapper does.

Behind the winner, there were plenty of thrills and spills. Cocktails At Dawn travelled well but his jumping at times left a bit to be desired and was easily disposed of by the winner. Connections will probably find an easier race to get the confidence levels up. Garrahalish jumped well again but looked one paced when the winner went on. He will definitely be winning races over the winter period.

Monkey Kingdom was going well until ploughing through the open ditch and unseating Tom Scudamore. He looks the type to keep an eye on later in the season when tackling open company. Keltus was hampered and never looked happy. A possible return back over hurdles would help him whilst Generous Ransom was travelling well enough when slipping at Swinley Bottom. Where he would have finished is questionable but he had done nothing wrong to that point.

Ulck Du Lin jumping the last better than his main rival Claret Cloak.
Ulck Du Lin jumping the last better than his main rival Claret Cloak.

The Byrne Group Handicap Chase looked a nice returning point for the highly regarded Next Sensation but was bitterly disappointing. He made an uncharacteristic mistake early on at the third fence before steadily dropping back as the race went on. One reason for this could be that he wasn’t allowed to stride on like he was in last season’s Grand Annual and with that potent weapon basically discarded; he didn’t show that usual zest which would leave you breathless. He could also possibly be better left handed as well.

Ulck Du Lin looked well treated if showing anything like his old form and under forceful tactics jumped nicely for his very useful claimer Sean Bowen fending off Claret Cloak who ran a stormer giving the winner twenty seven pounds. Jumping yet again let the latter down and one day he will finally put it all together on the track but he remains frustrating as he clearly possesses plenty of talent.

Sign Of A Victory couldn't have been more impressive on handicap debut.
Sign Of A Victory couldn’t have been more impressive on handicap debut.

Nicky Henderson had the first and second in the handicap hurdle when Sign Of A Victory made a mockery of his handicap mark of 139 when laughing at his opposition under Barry Geraghty.  Afterwards, trainer Nicky Henderson was keen to state he wanted his races spaced out and he wouldn’t be the type to turn out quickly which rules out a bid at the Greatwood in two weeks’ time. If the Indian Summer we are currently having continues until December (wishful thinking!) then the Ladbroke could be an ideal target depending on what the handicapper does.

Dawalan put up a career best and confirmed the promise his trainer had in him last season with Baradari confirming the Fred Winter form back in third. He showed no ill effects of his Aintree fall and will be a force to be reckoned with in these big two mile handicap hurdles. Of the rest, Get Me Out Of Here caught the eye for obvious reasons as he put in his best performance in this race before fading after the last. Connections will have bigger targets in mind next March yet again with this hugely talented hurdler.

What A Warrior proved he has similar traits to his name with a superb front running performance from Harry Skelton and again highlighting the emergence of Dan Skelton as an up and coming trainer. When formerly with Nigel Twiston-Davies, he ran some eye-catching races including over course and distance back in December on testing ground behind Houblon Des Obeauxs. Sweetened up by new connections, he tended to jump left handed but take nothing away from him as he battled dourly when Black Thunder came to challenge. He holds a Hennessy entry and with this rich vein of form, it wouldn’t surprise to see him run well there however the second would appeal more for that race.

Black Thunder ran a hugely encouraging Hennessy Gold Cup trial back in second.
Black Thunder ran a hugely encouraging Hennessy Gold Cup trial back in second.

Black Thunder ran a huge race giving the winner a stone and received a lovely patient ride by Nick Scholfield. He was the only horse who made progress from off the pace to challenge the winner which makes this effort more commendable. Although this ground suited him fine, softer ground would definitely play to his strengths more and a race like the Hennessy would be an ideal place to go for this likeable type.

Merry King ran his usual consistent race without looking a likely winner. It was interesting that he ran without headgear yet looked to fight all the way to the line. He will be down for all the big staying handicap chases again this season with a tilt at Aintree looking his main plan. Pass The Hat also stayed on nicely into fourth and whilst he doesn’t hold a Hennessy entry, there are plenty of big staying handicap chases on both sides of the sea for him to be competitive in this season.

Of those in behind, Midnight Appeal made a shocking mistake at the second and was given plenty of time to recover. When he irons out his jumping there potentially is a big pot to be landed with him. Grandads Horse is just tough and consistent but looks in the grip of the handicapper. Vino Griego ran a really nice race for his return to action considering he didn’t have his usual headgear on. These big handicap chases play to his strengths and he holds a Hennessy entry where he would be an interesting contender although he may need some assistance from the handicapper.

Vino Griego ran a nice race without his beloved headgear on.
Vino Griego ran a nice race without his beloved headgear on.

One more horse that needs a mention is my long term Grand National fancy Cantlow who hit the last down the back and looked disappointing however he came on plenty for his comeback last season next time out. Hopefully he remains over three miles next time out so he can get qualified for the race.

On a sad note, Le Bec was taken away in a horse ambulance and it was reported that he has been retired which is a crying shame for connections who lost two horses in The Last Night at Kempton and the promising Timesremembered at Aintree. Both deserve a real change in luck and underlines how cruel this sport can be at times.

 

The Grey Taylor fends off Chieftain's Choice to win on his hurdling debut.
The Grey Taylor fends off Chieftain’s Choice to win on his hurdling debut.

Up at Wetherby,  ground conditions were perfect with the card beginning with a gutsy display from the The Grey Taylor who benefitted from an excellent ride from Richard Johnson to repel his chief rival AP McCoy and Chieftain’s Choice in what was effectively two races in one with four kicking clear from an early stage including the first two. Steve Gollings has some nice novice hurdlers to go to war with this season including Relic Rock and Definitly Red plus this son of Royal Anthem who has already won a Point to Point. There was no disgrace for the runner up to lose to the winner as they were nine lengths clear of the third and he looks a more than useful recruit to hurdling.

Solar Impulse leading over the last.
Solar Impulse looks a smart chaser on the up for Paul Nicholls.

Solar Impulse was an impressive winner of the novice handicap chase considering he made a bad error through no fault of his own when Halling’s Wish put the brakes on at the first open ditch. Apart from that, he jumped superbly and showed his older rivals a clean pair of heels. He looks a horse that could mix it either in novice or open company and there are plenty of options open for him.

Turn Over Sivola still remains frustrating. He clearly has plenty of talent but a bad mistake two out effectively finished his chance. Danny Cook deserves a medal for his sit four out on Dark Dune whilst Pair Of Jacks made several errors on the way round and did well to get round.

Aurore D'Estruval winning impressively. She has a bright future ahead of her.
Aurore D’Estruval winning impressively. She has a bright future ahead of her.

The Mares Hurdle lacked a bit of depth but Aurore D’Estruval won this in the style that an odds on favourite should. The further she went the better she looked and coasted home. She looks to have plenty more to give and considering she will be better with a bit more cut in the ground, she is yet another exciting proposition for the John Quinn yard.

Emily Gray tried to go with the market leader but couldn’t live with her once she lengthened up the home straight and like the winner, potentially wants further to be seen at her best. Bonne Fee has been on the go for long enough and ran respectably back in third.

Cole Harden showed he has improved from last season with Saturday's win.
Cole Harden showed he has improved from last season with Saturday’s win.

The West Yorkshire Hurdle on paper looked a penalty kick for At Fishers Cross however for his reappearance he was plenty short enough and Cole Harden, second to Beat That at the Grand National meeting took full advantage with his slick jumping and an excellent front running ride from Gavin Sheehan. Not only has he boosted the Aintree form, he was upsides Faugheen coming down in the Neptune so he has paid him a handsome compliment as well. He looks to have improved on last season and deserves a go at the big boys now with races like the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Hennessy day and the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown looking ideal for him as he must go left handed.

Medinas ran a solid race on return and will find life hard these days whilst At Fishers Cross will come on plenty for that run. Although he looked disappointing to the eye, Rebecca Curtis horses are needing their first starts and with AP McCoy suggesting they go chasing, he shouldn’t be forgotten about easily. Jumping fences may also help him out as he does give his hurdles plenty of air.

 

The Charlie Hall Chase revolved around the pre-race fears from some that Silviniaco Conti wouldn’t be fit enough. Those came to fruition but he jumped beautifully in the main and got tired up the home straight. He wasn’t beaten that far in the end and he will come on plenty for this with bigger targets awaiting him in the coming months including the Betfair Chase in three weeks’ time at Haydock.

Menorah becoming the fourth big Saturday winner for Philip Hobbs in a row.
Menorah becoming the fourth big Saturday winner for Philip Hobbs in a row.

Take nothing away from Menorah who for the second Saturday in a row provided connections with a big winner after Wishfull Thinking’s Old Roan Chase win. The worry is whether he will go on from this as he wants better ground to be seen at his best. Taquin Du Seuil still doesn’t convince in the jumping department at all but he has got some engine and rallied well to nab second on the line from Double Ross whose stamina didn’t seem to last out.

The former will probably head to Haydock for the Betfair Chase whilst the latter will step back down in distance with a race like the Peterborough Chase looking an ideal target. Medermit wasn’t disgraced at all on his comeback and holds an intriguing Hennessy Gold Cup entry. If he were to take that up, he would be fascinating as a second string behind Smad Place.

The final race on the card at Wetherby was an intriguing three runner contest which again went the way of Warren Greatrex and Gavin Sheehan with Kayserberg making most of the running to see off Blakemount. The winner jumped really well on the whole and was given a breather at the right time before using his race fitness to his advantage.

Blakemount on the whole jumped nicely but did make a couple of errors, most notably two out when challenging the winner. After that, he simply blew up and will come on plenty for this effort. One niggling thing about his performance was that he left his back legs in a few fences but it was a pleasing enough chase debut without fireworks. Doing Fine made several mistakes including at the fourth and seventh before unseating four out.

 

Road To Riches under a confident Paul Carberry winning the JNWine.Com Champion Chase.
Road To Riches under a confident Paul Carberry winning the JNWine.com Champion Chase.

Down Royal had two feature races however the main event, the JNWine.com Champion Chase went to a horse that had a benefit of a run in Road To Riches who won easily from Rocky Creek and Boston Bob. The winner made every inch of the running under an ice cool Paul Carberry and used fitness to his advantage, vindicating his connections decision to run in this rather than the Grade Two later in the card. There looks to be improvement there as well and he definitely is capable of making up into a Ryanair contender this season.

Rocky Creek ran plenty well enough for his return and looked to need the run badly. If connections decide the Hennessy is the right race again for him, he will be a danger especially with this under his belt. Boston Bob was hampered by the fall of Realt Mor but was close enough going to three out and just faded away. He is bound to come on for that a bit and a race like the Lexus Chase over Christmas would be ideal for him.

First Lieutenant looked one paced back in fourth and his chances of winning a Grade One look limited. One thought his trainer had at the end of the 2012-13 season was the Grand National and that wouldn’t be the worst idea for a horse like him who jumps really well. Ma Filleule was a big disappointment but any horse is forgiven one bad run whilst On His Own looked as though he would come on plenty for the run.

Don Cossack continues his progression nicely.
Don Cossack continues his progression nicely.

The other feature race saw Don Cossack win impressively for Gigginstown denying Paul Nicholls his seventh win in a row in the race with Wonderful Charm back in second. The winner has always been highly regarded and this is the season where he has to deliver on the potential he has promised. So far with two wins to his credit this campaign, it will be interesting to see what route Gordon Elliott goes with him with a race like the John Durkan at Punchestown looking a likely place to go next.

Wonderful Charm who has gone well fresh as shown at Newton Abbot was put in his place here by Don Cossack and he has looked as though three miles is what he wants. He could join his stablemate Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase but whether the test of Haydock will suit him remains to be seen.

 

Many Clouds has been touted for the Hennessy by many for some time.
Many Clouds has been touted for the Hennessy for strong travelling type.

Sunday’s feature contest in England was the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase which had a small but select field including leading Gold Cup contender Holywell and plenty of up and coming second season novices. In the end, he had to settle for third behind Many Clouds and Eduard who both came a fair way clear.

Many Clouds has a really good record fresh and travelled strongly throughout for Leighton Aspell before staying on up the run in to beat the favourite Eduard who was given a strange ride in the sense that he wasn’t allowed to stride on with this losing him time at his fences which inevitably cost him the race. The winner’s next muted target was the Hennessy Gold Cup but the niggling doubt is whether he would truly see out the trip even though he shapes as a stayer. The runner up could go to either Ascot for the Amlin Chase or Huntingdon for the Peterborough Chase however he could potentially meet Simonsig in the latter.

For his comeback run, Holywell ran a race full of promise. Most importantly, he jumped much better than his previous experience at the track and blew up just after the last. There will be something to work on and whilst his next target remains unclear, his form always improves as the season goes on.

Both Green Flag and Up To Something looked to need this outing severely and will come on plenty for this. Both horses could be targeted at Aintree’s Becher Chase meeting where the former would likely line up in the feature event as he looks to want at least three miles whilst the latter would be ideal for the Grand Sefton with his excellent jumping likely to stand him in good stead.

 

Horses to Follow

Get Me Out Of Here – Ran with plenty of promise and will be primed again for that one day.

Black Thunder – Hennessy would suit him really well.

Solar Impulse – Jumped really well for an inexperienced horse and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

Aurore D’Estruval – Can take high ranks in the mares division this season.

Cole Harden – Well worth a go at Grade One company. Whether he is good enough is another question.

Green Flag/Up To Something – The Aintree double next month.

 

Horses to Follow from last week

Katgary was a notable eye catcher in several ways in the opening handicap hurdle. On paddock appearance he looked to have grown and strengthened up over the summer. He also looked as though he would need the run badly and this was proven the case as travelled strongly before stopping quickly. This effort can definitely be forgiven and he is one to follow when he goes up in distance to two and a half miles.

Great Try and Nick Scholfield before his run at Aintree. Photo courtesy of Jackie Kingdom.
Great Try and Nick Scholfield before his run at Aintree. Photo courtesy of Jackie Kingdom.

The other eye catcher came in the bumper with the hugely imposing Great Try, another Paul Nicholls representative. A winner at Southwell last season, he travelled really well on a track that I worried would be too sharp for him and looked the likely winner two furlongs out however he blew up. When he goes jumping, he will be one that will appreciate a more galloping track and a trip although he could easily win another bumper if kept to that discipline this season.

Aintree & Chepstow Preview – 25th October 2014

With plenty of variety on show tomorrow with the National Hunt season beginning in earnest with two quality meetings from Aintree and Chepstow and the flat coming towards its end with the Group One Racing Post Trophy the feature from Doncaster plus some Group action from Newbury. This blog will concentrate on both Aintree and Chepstow with thoughts on the Channel 4 action below. I shall be in attendance at Aintree both days this weekend and am looking forward to being back there. As always, OnTheOtherHoof have their usual weekly preview with the whole panel back together tonight.

Earlier this week, myself, Luke, Calum and special guest George Gorman did our 2014-15 National Hunt preview with all of our horses to follow for the upcoming campaign.

Aintree

2:00 BETFRED TV HANDICAP HURDLE (CLASS 2) (4yo+ 0-150)  2m1f

An interesting handicap hurdle starts the card with some useful novices and juveniles from last season making their return to action. Garde La Victoire won the maiden hurdle on this card twelve months ago and showed a good level of form throughout the season including when second to Ballyalton in December at Cheltenham. He disappointed in the Tolworth behind Royal Boy before struggling in the Supreme when fourteenth behind Vautour. The season ended for him with a confidence boosting win at Taunton when stepping up in trip and a similar success at Cheltenham. He looks interesting off his handicap mark but the improvement came over two and a half miles last season so he can be opposed.

Wadswick Court looks appealing off his mark.
Wadswick Court looks appealing off his mark.

The other novice from last season WADSWICK COURT appeals here. He won two of his three starts over hurdles including at Huntingdon where he was keen early on before beating a fair field. His last start at Ascot he threw away after the fall at the last flight of Wilde Blue Yonder who looked an assured winner. He picked up those pieces however idled badly allowing Mountain King to get up. The better ground is a huge positive plus the yard of Charlie Longsdon is in excellent form.

The first two home in last season’s Fred Winter Hawk High and Katgary reoppose here. The runner up was one of the unluckier in running when hampered by the fall of Clarcam at the second last and the winner got first run on him. He then went off a short price over course and distance in the conditional jockeys handicap hurdle on Grand National day and travelled well before not picking up when sixth to Court Minstrel. He could be ahead of the handicapper but he may want further on a flat track.

Hawk High won the juvenile hurdle at this meeting twelve months ago before going on to better things which culminated in his big price win in the Fred Winter which he duly deserved after an excellent ride from Brian Hughes. He ran well enough in the Grade One juvenile over course and distance where a mistake two out ended any chance he had behind Guitar Pete. Better ground will help his chances here and being back in handicap company, he should be going close if ready. Broughton is the other juvenile from last season who was fancied to go well in the Triumph after winning nicely at Musselburgh beating Clarcam but was disappointing at both spring festivals. He is a watching brief tomorrow.

The 2012 Swinton Hurdle winner Red Merlin came back after two years off the track and ran a huge race at Uttoxeter off top weight in June when second giving the winner plenty of weight.  He looks vulnerable here against potential improvers. Cool Mcavity hasn’t gone on since his Punchestown win whilst Handazan and Eagle Rock don’t look good enough here.

Selection – Wadswick Court

 

3:00 BETFRED MONET´S GARDEN OLD ROAN CHASE (A Limited Handicap) (Grade 2) (CLASS 1) (4yo+) 2m4f

The race that features the name of three times winner Monet’s Garden, one of the finest jumpers of a fence we have seen in recent years who even beat the mighty Kauto Star in this race in 2007.  On paper, this year’s renewal looks fairly strong with the top weight Module having a BHA rating of 164. He brings a fairly solid look to the race with Graded form including a win in the Game Spirit (I refuse to use the actual name given on the day) at Newbury and a staying on third in the Queen Mother Champion Chase behind Sire De Grugy. His final start he was badly hampered by the fall of Hidden Cyclone and was pulled up sharply by Barry Geraghty. The return to this distance is a positive but he does have plenty of weight.

Uxizandre winning last time over course and distance and is taken to repeat that today.
Uxizandre winning last time over course and distance and is taken to repeat that today.

UXIZANDRE progressed a lot last season for Alan King under forceful tactics when putting up two excellent efforts at both Cheltenham and Aintree. The effort in the JLT surprised some however allowed to stride on unlike at Warwick the previous time; he put the field to the sword under a superb front running ride from Robert Thornton and was only denied late on by the forceful AP McCoy on Taquin Du Seuil. McCoy returned for Aintree where again he was given another fantastic ride with his jumping winning him the race against Oscar Whiskey. If allowed to use those tactics, he will be the one to beat tomorrow as he looks the horse to have the most potential going forward this season.

Rajdhani Express only had three starts last season with him meeting with a setback after his first run. His best run of the year was his third to Dynaste in the Ryanair but disappointed over course and distance in the Melling Chase behind Boston Bob. Potentially on a sharper track he wants three miles so can be overlooked. Rolling Aces put up a career best in the same race when second and with conditions to suit, he could run a big race although the yard’s horses have looked to need the run.

Conquisto, VIVA COLONIA, Mr Moonshine, Wishfull Thinking and Edgardo Sol represent last year’s form. Conquisto looks to be the one with the obvious chance however this does look a stronger race than twelve months ago. Viva Colonia’s best recent form is at this distance including when third last year and when second to Mr Moonshine at Musselburgh. He was travelling well enough in the Topham when he unseated Danny Cook at the fence before Becher’s and he looks overpriced with a run on the flat to blow away the cobwebs.

Mr Moonshine will probably find this a tad on the sharp side with other targets at this course awaiting him later in the campaign. Wishfull Thinking will probably need this run but looked for some of last year to have returned back to his old form when second here in December to Unioniste and winning off top weight at Cheltenham in January beating Double Ross. Edgardo Sol has changed stables to Emma Lavelle but still looks handicapped to the hilt.

Bold Sir Brian hasn’t been seen for a while but this looks to be a confidence booster with the horrific fall on 2013 Trials Day still fresh in the mind. Lucky William fell too early last time out to know how he would have fared against Sizing Europe and Kie’s jumping can leave a lot to be desired.

Selections – Uxizandre/Viva Colonia (E/W)

 

3:40 BETFRED MOBILE VETERANS´ HANDICAP CHASE (CLASS 2) (10yo+ 0-150) 3m1f

A small but select field go to post for the Veterans Chase which in recent years has been a fantastic initiative. If anyone asks me for a race that the Cheltenham Festival needs, it would be this. All five have claims here starting with Burton Port who looked for the majority of last season that he had lost his way but a good run at Newbury in a similar race showed the old fire was there. He then unseated at the second in the Grand National before travelling like the winner of the majority of the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown when outstayed by Hadrian’s Approach. He definitely goes in with a favourite’s chance.

Hey Big Spender was a huge eyecatcher in this race twelve months ago when travelling like the winner before blowing up. He followed that run with a win in the Rehearsal Chase and I fully expect tomorrow to be similar to last year’s run. The yard hasn’t fully hit their stride yet but the horses are running well without winning.

Lie Forrit will definitely appreciate this small field over fences after finding the Scottish National too much for him but should come on for the run. McMurrough ran well in a Veterans Chase back in Feburary at Doncaster behind Tranquil Sea but tends to need the run which leaves PIGEON ISLAND who comes into this fifteen pounds lower than when second to Jamsie Hall a year ago. He has been running well without winning and with Jamie Bargary taking ten off, he looks unbelievably well handicapped on the pick of his form.

Selection – Pigeon Island

 

4:50 TOTESPORT.MOBI NOVICES´ CHASE (CLASS 3) (4yo+) 2m4f

Timesremembered can make class show first time out over fences.
Timesremembered can make class show first time out over fences.

A fascinating novice chase with several nice novice hurdlers from last year making the transition to chasing. TIMESREMEMBERED looked a chaser through and through last season. He actually won on this day last year when dotting up in the Persian War beating Potters Cross by nine lengths before finishing placed behind Creepy at Cheltenham and Captain Cutter in the Challow at Newbury. He then went for the River Don at Doncaster and disappointed behind Urban Hymn when sixth on bad ground. The Coral Cup was decided as his Cheltenham target and he ran with great credit when sixth to Whisper only beaten five and a half lengths. He was the highest rated hurdler of these and has won a Point to Point so if he jumps round, he should be winning.

Horizontal Speed looks the main rival having won four of his starts over hurdles including a novice handicap over the fixed brush hurdles on his last start at Haydock. He should give the favourite most to think about. Sergeant Mattie’s jumping on debut at times was excellent however as the race progressed, he became sloppy and only just scraped home at Uttoxeter.

He will need to jump a lot better tomorrow if featuring plus gives weight away as does Wakanda who won a novice handicap chase on debut at Hexham but looks up against it here. Golden Hoof is another to have chasing experience having jumped well at Kempton before potentially being over the top at Uttoxeter.  Volcanic makes his UK chase debut after having experience in France and won easily at 1/9 last time at Cartmel over further. This does look a much stiffer task.

Selection – Timesremembered

 

Chepstow

2:25 TOTEPOOL SUPPORTING THE SPORT YOU LOVE NOVICES´ CHASE (CLASS 4) (4yo+) 3m

This looks one of the races of the day with the majority of the field holding solid claims. This could be one of those early season novice chases to follow as the season progresses. SAUSALITO SUNRISE has looked a thorough stayer over hurdles including when winning a handicap in desperate ground before Christmas at Haydock over three miles. He ran a respectable enough race in the Albert Bartlett when sixth to Very Wood before ending his season with two wins, the latter at Perth being impressive when disposing of Oscar Rock in taking style. Whenever trainer Phillip Hobbs has been asked about his stable stars, he has always mentions this horse without being prompted which indicates the regard he is held in.

Mosspark looked progressive throughout last season. He began his career when second to Grade One winner Annacotty in a Point to Point back in November 2012. He won three on the bounce over hurdles including the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon beating Spirit Of Shankly before finding the Albert Bartlett a culture shock to him. Like the favourite, he looks an exciting proposition to chasing and will win his fair share of races over the winter.

Sego Success was a horse who caught the eye at Haydock in the paddock looking as though he would make into a nice staying chaser in time. He didn’t handle the ground and can be forgiven that effort as it was barely raceable. Although he fell at Exeter, he was unlucky to as he was short of room at the second last and was staying on nicely at the time. He may not trouble the main pair in the market but looks a nice chasing recruit.

The same can be said about Minella On Line who looks to want at least three miles on a galloping track. He found the same distance around Kempton too sharp before winning at Chepstow over hurdles in March. Awaywiththegreys returns chasing after an unsuccessful attempt last time but has kept his form over hurdles whilst Leo Luna won’t like the ground and is on the small side which is a worry.

Selection – Sausalito Sunrise

 

3:35 TOTEPOOL PERSIAN WAR NOVICES´ HURDLE (Grade 2) (CLASS 1) (4yo+) 2m4f

All about SON DU BERLAIS here. One that made it into my second ten to follow list, he came over to England during the summer after a hugely impressive win at Auteuil in March before toying with a 125 rated horse in Val D’arc at Newton Abbot. Whilst Val D’arc hasn’t done much to deserve that rating, Son Du Berlais looked a class above and this galloping track will suit him far better than a tight track like Newton Abbot. A note of caution for anyone wishing to back him for any novice hurdle event at Cheltenham. This is his final start as a novice and his next start will be in open company.

The main challengers are headed by recent Cheltenham winner Vicente who had to battle to beat Present View. The main worry here is whether this race comes too quickly. One of the blog horses to follow Blaklion was withdrawn at the start on that occasion and whatever was troubling Jamie Moore seems to have been sorted. He is fitted with a first time hood here which seems an interesting move but tomorrow he is best watched. The one that will chase Son Du Berlais home is course and distance winner Relentless Dreamer who did it nicely plus gave the Uttoxeter bumper form with Relic Rock and Fletchers Flyer a boost.

Selections – Son Du Berlais / Son Du Berlais/Relentless Dreamer (F/C)

 

4:10 TOTEPOOLLIVEINFO.COM SILVER TROPHY HANDICAP HURDLE (Grade 3) (CLASS 1) (4yo+) 2m4f

The market seems to suggest that Regal Encore is a good thing tomorrow off his mark of 131 but so far over hurdles he hasn’t impressed including when getting turned over when 1/9f at Hexham and also on his two handicap starts when beaten in the Imperial Cup at Sandown and when eighth at Punchestown. The stable was reported to have a virus last season but even allowing for that, his jumping wasn’t the best at times and even if he is well handicapped he has to jump a lot better. With him in the race, if you don’t fancy him then you will get a much better price about other leading fancies.

Dr Richard Newland has listed one of my handicappers to follow BOONDOOMA as a horse to watch out for this season and it wasn’t hard to see why last time out over course and distance where he was hugely impressive beating Peckhamecho. He was raised twelve pounds for that but looks a horse on the upgrade and with his rider’s valuable five pound claim; he could still be well ahead of the handicapper.

Shelford won the first division of the novice hurdle two weeks ago beating Emerging Talent and connections wisely come here to exploit his handicap mark rather than go into Graded company. He has an obvious chance and should chase home Boondooma. Vieux Lion Rouge will love the ground but is one that would either bolt up by fifteen lengths or run a shocker and isn’t trusted after his previous experience in handicap company when running poorly when well fancied for the Martin Pipe at the Festival.

Aubusson will also enjoy underfoot conditions having won on New Year’s Day and Lizzie Kelly’s claim is a definite plus. Shammick Boy won this race twelve months ago off a five pound higher mark but this looks a stronger contest, L’Unique is a spring horse so will come on plenty for this and Closing Ceremony would appreciate further.

Selection – Boondooma

4:45 TOTEEXACTA PICK THE 1,2 HANDICAP CHASE (CLASS 2) (4yo+) 2m

Valdez winning at Doncaster beating Arnaud.
Valdez winning at Doncaster beating Arnaud.

Alan King has had an excellent start with his association with Tom Bellamy and even though he has top weight, VALDEZ looks the solid pick here. He boasts the best form in the race having finished a close fifth in the Arkle behind Western Warhorse and also goes well when fresh. He should have too much class for his opposition here.

Majala finally won again over fences last time out at Perth over two and a half miles so the drop back in trip is a big worry here. Grey Gold has been a fantastic servant to the Richard Lee stable and loves this ground. He is probably the main danger to Valdez. Umberto D’Olivate faces the toughest test of his career and will need to step up on previous form whilst Eastlake has Raymond O’Brien booked instead of the champ. He will probably need the run with other targets on the horizon as the year progresses.

Selection – Valdez

 

 

Cheltenham Showcase Review 2014

The Showcase meeting signals the return to Cheltenham for the National Hunt and the two days this year have thrown up some very promising horses going forward in the season. With there being more coverage to write about this week, the blog will mention the majority of the races ran over the two day fixture however particular contests will get more attention than others.

Before I go into full detail in the piece, OnTheOtherHoof’s annual season preview video will return on Monday at around 8pm. Follow the Twitter page (@OnTheOtherHoof) for details about the video where we will be joined by conditional jockey George Gorman who gave fantastic insight when on the video last year including the likes of Lord Windermere and Very Wood. We hope you can join us for it and if you have any questions/horses to follow then feel free to send them via Twitter or leave them in the comments box below.

Friday began with the two and a half mile novice hurdle which sadly lost some of its interest when Blaklion was withdrawn down at the start.  In the end, the prize went to Vicente who has had his own problems including a defibrillating heart. However, the result might have been different had Present View not made a significant error at the final flight having travelled supremely well throughout the contest.

Present View ran a cracker on comeback and the Paddy Power Gold Cup looks ideal.
Present View ran a cracker on comeback and the Paddy Power Gold Cup looks ideal.

The winner was muted as a possible for the Persian War next week where he will face Nicky Henderson’s potential smart hurdler Son Du Berlais. The runner up meanwhile has the Paddy Power Gold Cup as his aim and he did no harm to his chances for that race here and off his handicap mark of 144, he has to go in with a serious chance.

The second race on the card featured the return of several exciting horses who were making their chasing debuts in the likes of Un Ace, Chris Pea Green and Thomas Crapper who were all getting weight from recent Newton Abbot winner Court Minstrel. The race lost some of the intrigue when Un Ace put in an extra stride at the third and paid the penalty. Thankfully both horse and jockey got up none the worse.

At the business end of the race, Court Minstrel giving five pounds to both his main rivals won a shade cosily when sprinting up the hill to beat Chris Pea Green by two and three quarter lengths with only a neck to Thomas Crapper back in third. On the whole Court Minstrel handled Cheltenham’s fences really well for a horse that I hadn’t really considered a chaser and on good ground will pay his way but will definitely have a mid-season break due to the likely soft ground over the winter.

Runner up Chris Pea Green ran a lovely race for a beginner over fences. He jumped well mostly but a couple of sticky mistakes late on cost him any chance he would have had against the winner. He looks a type that could potentially improve up in trip as does Thomas Crapper who has excellent handicap hurdle form over two and a half miles having won twice last year and finishing second to Don Poli in the Martin Pipe at the Festival. A first fence blunder didn’t help his cause but he jumped much better after that and connections will be pleased with that.

To be perfectly honest, the Pertemps Qualifier which was won by Sybarite didn’t really have many taking eyecatchers apart from the second Henryville who has improved markedly over the summer for Harry Fry who was giving plenty of weight away to the winner.

The Romford Pele has improved almost two stone in the ratings since the application of blinkers at Worcester back in June and he continued his winning run with a strong display to see off Lamb Or Cod by six lengths. His jockey Barry Geraghty did have to get serious after some scrappy leaps at the fourth last and the third last but he fought tenaciously up the hill. The Hennessy Gold Cup was muted as a target after the race however off a mark in the 150’s, he may struggle against better handicapped horses.

Lamb Or Cod ran a fine race in defeat back up in distance but has been hammered for winning egg and spoon novice chases over the summer. He will do very well to be winning handicaps off his current mark whilst Definite Ruby ran a solid race back in third.

Highland Retreat will come on plenty for her return.
Highland Retreat will come on plenty for her return.

Whilst this could be considered a disappointing effort from the favourite Highland Retreat, there were many positives to take from her run. Considering all of her rivals will have had a fitness edge over her and on ground probably as quick as she would want it, she ran a lovely race for her first try over fences. On the whole she jumped beautifully and it was only after three out she showed the signs of tiredness. She will come on plenty for the run and on softer ground she will be a huge force to be reckoned with and is a horse that connections should have plenty of fun with over the winter months.

Commissioned became the first John Ferguson trained winner at Cheltenham when beating Aintree Champion Bumper winner Ballybolley in the two mile maiden hurdle. A good performer on the flat for Mark Johnston, he was a more than useful juvenile who ran well on all his starts without winning last year including when second in the Adonis behind Activial at Kempton and fourth in the Grade One at Aintree behind Guitar Pete. He was entitled on that form to win here but he did so in impressive fashion and hopefully the handicapper won’t take the win literally as he could be dangerous in big handicap hurdles on good ground.

Ballybolley showed a much improved effort from his first start at Perth having set the early pace before finding Commissioned too good. A step up in trip wouldn’t do him any harm and is another that could do well in handicap hurdles once getting a mark.

The final race also featured a trainer taking his first win at Prestbury Park in the shape of David Dennis when Roman Flight took the honours from Hammersly Lake and the enigmatic Vibrato Valtat. With a steady pace for most of the contest, the winner raced prominently and had to recover from a last flight error to take a deserved success having looked plenty high enough in the weights. Hammersly Lake has been off the track since falling at Ascot on his only start for Nicky Henderson last year and ran a fantastic race in defeat. Perhaps if the winner had drifted towards him, he would have fought back earlier and potentially won but he is a horse of promise.

Vibrato Valtat did his usual trick of travelling powerfully through the race and once it came to finding off the bridle in a battle, he shied away from it. He will be very difficult to win with this year. Mountain King was one who was inconvenienced by the early slow pace and pulled for a fair way. He looked the likely winner turning for home but probably needed the outing and is one for a big handicap when getting a stronger pace to aim at.

 

Saturday’s card looked to promise just as much as Friday’s and again, it didn’t disappoint. The day began with the three mile one and a half furlong novice hurdle in which Vivaldi Collonges was a warm order. He travelled for most of the contest like the best horse however In The Rough who had the benefit of several runs over the summer joined him on the run up the hill and benefitted from the lack of a recent run of his main rival to win for Jonjo O’Neill. Take nothing away from the winner who should make a nice chaser when the time comes for him to jump fences however Vivaldi Collonges will come on plenty for today’s effort and whatever he does this season, he looks an exciting prospect for Paul Nicholls.

John's Spirit looks a serious contender again for the Paddy Power after yesterday's win. Photo courtesy of Dan Heap.
John’s Spirit looks a serious contender again for the Paddy Power after yesterday’s win. Photo courtesy of Dan Heap.

O’Neill didn’t have to wait long to be back in the winners enclosure as John’s Spirit won the two and a half mile handicap chase for the second year in succession off a mark of 147 which is eighteen pounds higher than last year. It was a performance reminiscent of this race and the Paddy Power Gold Cup last year where he just travelled and jumped so well. Personally, I thought he was too high in the weights but there still looks improvement there and he will go again to the Paddy Power Gold Cup with an excellent chance. I also get the impression that he is more suited to the Old Course with his record reading 7111 compared to the New Course 654.

The runner up Persian Snow showed plenty of promise on his seasonal return and will definitely have his day in the sun somewhere this season. Ericht ran well too having been squeezed on the home bend but needs this type of ground to be effective. Astracad ran on again but is one that looks hard to place whilst Champion Court looked awkward when passing the stands with a circuit to go and kept jumping out to his right before folding tamely late on. Claret Cloak needs to brush up on his jumping and he was beat before the distance even came into consideration.

The four year old hurdle looked a cracker on paper with the Triumph Hurdle winner Tiger Roll reopposing the unlucky horse of the race Calipto. The outcome was the same with Tiger Roll coming out on top but the majority of the post-race talk was about the ride Sam Twiston-Davies gave Calipto and you can argue that he set the race up for Tiger Roll however I saw it in a different way. Paul Nicholls has stated that all of his runners will come on plenty for their first run and those that win are a bonus and secondly it was reported that Calipto had a breathing problem. In those circumstances you have to be pleased with the return by both horses with Tiger Roll showing tenacity to battle past Calipto.

Violet Dancer was a definite eyecatcher. Although he finished last, he wasn’t beaten around at all and will definitely have a say in big handicap hurdles throughout the season. He looks a similar type to Chris Pea Green and will improve as the season progresses.

The Showcase Trophy has become the Phillip Hobbs and The Brushmakers benefit race and for the fourth year in a row they won the race with Roalco Des Farges who was given a lovely patient ride by Tom O’Brien to see off the favourite and prominent racing Standing Ovation. The nine year old grey had disappointed on his last two starts at the back end of last year but yesterday confirmed the promise he showed when winning at Newbury back in March. He could return for the staying handicap at the Open meeting or could even be a Becher Chase candidate as Aintree would suit him well.

Standing Ovation ran a great race having been up with the pace throughout and whilst I had doubts about whether he had reached his peak in his handicap mark, he looks as though he could still improve this year and could go for a repeat success in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton in two weeks’ time.

Golden Chieftain looks well treated again in the handicap.
Golden Chieftain looks well treated again by the handicapper.

Alfie Spinner is a consistent type in these races and a decent enough yardstick and he will pay his way in place money in similar races throughout the year. It was pleasing to see the old boy Chicago Grey run a really nice race on his return and he looks dangerously well handicapped on his best form. As does Golden Chieftain who travelled sweetly and looked the likely winner just after the third last before fitness told. He is only two pounds higher than when he won at the Festival in 2013 and it will be interesting to see where he goes next.

Ulzana’s Raid put up an excellent performance when winning the two mile five furlong handicap hurdle off top weight and did it nicely in the end for Alan King. He looks to have a bright future and could still be ahead of the handicapper.

Splash Of Ginge got off the mark at the second attempt in the two and a half mile novice chase when beating the even money favourite Ainsi Fideles. Splash Of Ginge jumped economically without being flash and looked to have come on plenty for his return at Perth. He could return next month to the Open meeting over the same distance (course being different today) against better opposition.

The card ended with the bumper which on paper looked a good race however the field was annihilated by Fairyhouse bumper winner Moon Racer who made most of the running and quickened away in such impressive fashion. The response on the home turn was immediate and he looks a hugely exciting talent. Arabic History looked in trouble at one stage before staying on up the hill to finish second whilst fancied runners How About It and Going For Gold both looked disappointing.

 

Horses to Follow

Present View – Obvious one but is one in most people’s shortlist for the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Chris Pea Green – Will come on plenty for that chasing debut.

Highland Retreat – Softer ground and a stamina test will see her excel.

Hammersly Lake – Nice run back and could even go novice chasing after this.

Mountain King – A stronger pace will suit more and will come on for that effort.

Persian Snow – Is one to keep on the right side of.

Golden Chieftain – Looks dangerously well handicapped again.

Moon Racer – Very obvious but looks a smart prospect.

The blog will return next Sunday evening covering the jumps action from Aintree and Chepstow.

2014 QIPCO British Champions Day Preview

Tomorrow’s action represents a good mixture of one of the best days for both action on the flat and over jumps with Ascot’s QIPCO British Champions Day and Cheltenham’s second day of the Showcase meeting. Sadly at Ascot we are missing some of the stars of the season including the likes of Kingman, Australia and The Grey Gatsby for various reasons but the card certainly doesn’t lack in quality although the ground has been a big factor towards the entries. This blog will cover all the races at Ascot without mentioning Cheltenham however a lengthy review of both days of the Showcase meeting will be going up tomorrow night.

As usual, OnTheOtherHoof made a video with just myself and @calummadell as @Lukeelder13 was absent due to not eating up and @mytentoryours due to him being at Cheltenham.

 

1:45 Ascot – QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS LONG DISTANCE CUP (Group 2) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) 2m

http://www.sportismadeforbetting.com/2014/10/champions-day-long-distance-cup.html

Like on Arc day for the Cadran, I wrote this piece for Scott Ferguson covering the race in thorough detail.

 

2:20 Ascot – QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS SPRINT STAKES (Group 2) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) 6f

Whilst this race is missing Slade Power who is currently down in Australia ready to take on Lankan Rupee, the race still has a good outlook to it and soft ground horses dominate the market.

G Force winning the Sprint Cup. The ground is a slight concern.
G Force winning the Sprint Cup. The ground is a slight concern.

G Force has been a wonderful performer this year for David O’Meara and Middleham Park Racing having only cost 25,000 Guineas at the Horses in Training Sale last October. He finally gained a deserved Group One success having been hugely unlucky in the Nunthorpe and relishing the step up to six furlongs at Haydock on ground definitely on the softer side when beating Gordon Lord Byron. The concern tomorrow is whether he’ll handle this ground plus with Ascot being a stiff six furlongs but he is undoubtedly a worthy favourite.

Jack Dexter will appreciate the underfoot conditions.
Jack Dexter will appreciate the underfoot conditions.

Gordon Lord Byron is in excellent form with himself with yet anotherexcellent run in the Prix de la Foret behind Olympic Glory twelve days ago. He is one who won’t mind conditions and the distance should be his ideal but the selection is JACK DEXTER who has been out of sort for most of the year however his last run in the Ayr Gold Cup was a sign that he was coming back to himself. He was drawn on the wrong side and ran a blinder to finish eighth (Third of the far side group) on ground too lively for him. He gets his conditions and looks primed for a big run.

Both Viztoria and Maarek will both like the ground. The latter will need to start better than he did in the Abbaye twelve days ago whilst the former won at the Curragh beating stablemate Gathering Power who reopposes here. If either of those could win, it would cap a superb year for Edward Lynam who has dominated the sprinting scene with both Sole Power & Slade Power.

Of the rest, there are ground concerns for several including Gregorian, Tropics, Baccarat and Lucky Kristale. Alben Star is well worth a go at this level but whilst he will go on the ground, I doubt he will be as effective as others.

 

Selection – Jack Dexter

 

2:55 – Ascot QIPCO BRITISH CHAMPIONS FILLIES & MARES STAKES (Group 1) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) 1m4f

The race that caused a huge headache having fancied Vote Often to run well as she looked unexposed over the distance plus loves soft ground. Silk Sari couldn’t have been more impressive when annihilating her opposition in the Park Hill over a mile and six furlongs at Doncaster last month. The improvement looked to come from the step up in distance and the step back here plus the testing conditions are enough to put me off.

Silk Sari bolted up last time in the Park Hill. Ground is a major concern.
Silk Sari bolted up last time in the Park Hill. Ground is a major concern.

The form of the race at Yarmouth with Hadaatha and Albasharah has worked out really well with the former running a career best in the Prix de l’Opera when third behind We Are and the latter winning a Listed event easily last week at Newmarket. The ground is a huge concern for the pair of them however. Albasharah’s stablemate Tasaday won’t mind the ground but twelve furlongs will stretch her stamina.

Seal Of Approval winning this race twelve months ago
Seal Of Approval winning this race twelve months ago

SEAL OF APPROVAL won this last year and she finally gets these conditions again. Her comeback run was full of promise in the Yorkshire Cup behind Gospel Choir before racing lazily in the Lancashire Oaks behind Pomology. She showed a sign that she was coming back in the Park Hill behind Silk Sari and this ground will help her enormously. Cubanita is another who won’t mind the conditions as will Chicquita who looks to have had her problems ironed out. She has the best form in the race it’s just whether the exertions in the Arc have taken it out of her.

 

Selection – Seal Of Approval

 

3:30 Ascot – QUEEN ELIZABETH II STAKES SPONSORED BY QIPCO (British Champions Mile) (Group 1) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) 1m

Night Of Thunder can cement his status as a top miler today.
Night Of Thunder can cement his status as a top miler today.

The market suggests that the two three year old colts NIGHT OF THUNDER and Charm Spirit will fight out the finish and I side with the former. His win in the 2,000 Guineas which had Charm Spirit behind in fifth has been franked on so many occasions and that form looks rock solid. He had no chance against Kingman in the St James’s Palace with that rival’s supreme acceleration off a slow pace before clearly not seeing out ten furlongs in the Eclipse. The Moulin is a race he should have won as Ryan Moore mistook the winning post and only gave him his second tap with the whip on the line. Ground is absolutely no issue for him whereas Charm Spirit will have to prove he handles it tomorrow.

Tullius will love the ground and looks overpriced.
Tullius will love the ground and looks overpriced.

However the race definitely isn’t a two horse race. As much as Integral deserves plenty of respect, the ground is completely against her tomorrow and she will struggle. Custom Cut has been a model of consistency and deserves his go in Group One company. His Joel Stakes win was a career best and he will need another here but with the form he is in, he could easily make the places. TULLIUS has been running well all season without getting his head in front and looks a stonking each way bet. His best run was probably in the Queen Anne when staying on to finish fourth behind Toronado on ground that was probably too quick for him. The ground is fine for him tomorrow and a big run is expected.

Top Notch Tonto will adore the ground tomorrow and showed himself in good heart when narrowly touched off by Short Squeeze in a big handicap at York in August. Toormore and Captain Cat are two who want much better ground than this to be seen at their best. Kingsbarn has been out of form this year but his best run last season came in this race on similar ground. He could run into a place if at his best. The other two look out of their depth here.

 

Selections – Night Of Thunder/Tullius – E/W

 

4:05 – Ascot QIPCO CHAMPION STAKES (British Champions Middle Distance) (Group 1) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) 1m2f

No one would deserve to win more tomorrow than Cirrus Des Aigles and his trainer Corine Barande-Barbe.
No one would deserve to win more tomorrow than Cirrus Des Aigles and his trainer Corine Barande-Barbe.

The argument that we only see flat horses for a limited time can be blown out the water by the legend that is Cirrus Des Aigles who has looked this season to be in the form of his life. Three Group One wins in the space of five weeks showed that he is still a potent threat at the highest level and having won this race back in 2011, the apple of Corine Barande-Barbe’s eye is surely primed for another bold bid. After his Coronation Cup injury, some feared he wouldn’t return but he showed the old sparkle when winning the Prix Dollar before being disqualified for interference. As much as I would love him to win for connections, I don’t think he’s bombproof tomorrow.

Free Eagle is a horse that could be a potential superstar. His return to the racecourse last month was seriously impressive both on the eye and the clock, with his time over the same course and distance as the Irish Champion Stakes being quicker. The ground is a major concern plus the bounce factor has to be taken into account.

Noble Mission could steal this from the front under James Doyle.
Noble Mission could steal this from the front under James Doyle.

NOBLE MISSION has been a revitalised horse since the change in tactics allowing him to go forward in his races and he has struck an excellent relationship with James Doyle. The turning point was after his first start this year at Newbury in the John Porter where he hit the front and did his usual trick of stopping in front behind Cubanita. A change in tactics at Sandown however on softer ground did the trick when he thrashed Telescope in the Gordon Richards before confirming the form again at Chester in the Huxley Stakes.

He finally got his Group One success at the Curragh when beating Magician in the Tattersalls Gold Cup before being denied cruelly in the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud on the track by Spiritjim. He won the race though as Spiritjim was subsequently disqualified for a banned substance. Last time out he wasn’t able to dominate in Munich and was beaten by Lucky Lion. I think tomorrow he will get the chance to dominate and with James Doyle having a very good clock in his head, he could steal a few lengths which on the ground will be vital.

Ruler Of The World will definitely appreciate the softer ground after running a good race in the Arc on a surface that was probably a bit too quick for him. He ran a brilliant race in this behind Farhh last year and a reproduction of that will see him go close again. Pether’s Moon has surprised this season as he looked to hate soft ground in the Geoffrey Freer before winning in Turkey and last time out at Ascot on it. The drop in trip shouldn’t be an issue but will probably be outclassed.

Western Hymn will adore this ground and this is his trip so he could easily run into a place as could Sheikhzayedroad who has won his last three starts including the Grade One Woodbine International. Al Kazeem is another you cannot rule out completely but the worry is whether he is still up to Group One standard.

Selection – Noble Mission

 

4:45 – Ascot BALMORAL HANDICAP (Sponsored By Qipco) (CLASS 2) (3yo+) 1m

Chatez will adore the ground tomorrow and is well fancied to do so.
Chatez will adore the ground tomorrow and is well fancied to do so.

When looking at this race at the five day stage and with the amount of rain falling at Ascot, two jumped off the page in CHATEZ and LEVITATE who will both love the ground and it helps that they are both drawn low. The former won a handicap against his own age group at Haydock earlier in the year before running a nice race on ground too quick in the Britannia. This looks to have been the plan for a while and he goes with a winning chance. The latter also loves this type of ground and the former Lincoln winner has a similar chance tomorrow of winning.

The majority of these either won’t stay a mile (Heaven’s Guest and Hawkeyethenoo) or will hate the ground (Gabrial’s Kaka, Bronze Angel, Abseil, Fort Bastion, Belgian Bill and Jack’s Revenge) but one at a price is EMPIRE STORM who ran really well on his handicap debut over seven furlongs two weeks ago behind Intransigent and could be overpriced.

Selections – Chatez/Levitate RFC

Empire Storm E/W

 

 

11th October 2014 – Chepstow Review

There are no doubts now that the 2014/15 National Hunt season is beginning to get into full swing with today’s meeting at Chepstow the one that most enthusiasts look at as the proper return. Last year’s meeting had some bearing on the entire season with Balder Succes who went on from his chase winning debut to become the highest rated two mile novice chaser and Killala Quay who went onto Grade Two success at Sandown plus was fourth behind Faugheen in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival. At the end of each review, I shall put a list of horses that caught the eye for future reference.

With the return of the National Hunt, OnTheOtherHoof shall be doing our jumps season preview video next Monday night around 8pm so we hope you can join us and even send in your questions/horses to follow for the upcoming campaign. Keep an eye on our Twitter page (@OnTheOtherHoof) for details of the video.

The opener on the card was the juvenile hurdle in which champion trainer Paul Nicholls has a very good record with the likes of Far West, Domatline and Keltus all winning this race in recent years. He relied this year on the favourite Full Blast who was very disappointing after making an early mistake when fifth behind the Alan King trained Karezak.

The winner moved to King’s yard over the summer and with a tally of five second place finishes, he deserved to get off the mark however some of his leaps left something to be desired although given more time, he will definitely improve his technique. Softer ground also didn’t seem to impede him and it would be no surprise to see him out again quickly, potentially at Aintree’s Old Roan meeting in two weeks’ time. The runner up Golden Doyen will definitely be winning over the winter as he and the winner both pulled twenty two lengths clear of the third Russian Bolero, a winner on his only hurdles start at Plumpton.

Nicholls also had the second favourite of the day in Emerging Talent in the first division of the novice hurdle but he had to settle for the runner up spot behind Shelford who jumped better on the whole and fought all the way to the line. The winner was last seen finishing second to the useful Simply A Legend and could be one for early season handicap hurdles now having run three times. A mark in the mid 120’s wouldn’t be a completely harsh assessment. Emerging Talent looks already to need a fence with his hurdling technique looking very sketchy on occasions plus he didn’t help his chances early on by running far too freely but he looks to possess a fair amount of promise. There are races over hurdles to be won with him but his future lies over fences and he will be given plenty of time to mature.

The second division went the way of Relentless Dreamer for Barry Geraghty and Rebecca Curtis who provided a good boost to his Uttoxeter bumper with two highly regarded horses in Relic Rock and Fletchers Flyer. He jumped nicely in the main and has plenty of stamina in his pedigree which was suggested by the way he finished his race off today. He will probably stay at this distance before tackling further before the season is over whilst Bandit Country ran a race full of promise on debut without Richie McLernon having to get too serious and is one for handicaps later in the campaign.

Of the rest, Bincombe should come on for the run and will probably be seen back in handicap chases in the near future, Ruperra Tom shaped with much more promise than he did on hurdling debut at Chepstow eleven days ago and the favourite Truckers Steel is another chasing type who faded away after not being entirely foot perfect at some of the obstacles.

After some reversals earlier in the card, Southfield Theatre ensured Paul Nicholls left the Monmouthshire venue with a winner after a pleasing enough debut over fences in a race won in recent years by Cue Card, Fingal Bay and Balder Succes. His jumping mostly was sound but there were one or two niggly errors late on when he increased the tempo which could be a worry when he goes up in class but he will definitely come on plenty for the run with the Rising Stars Novices Chase at Wincanton in a couple of weeks an intended target.

The runner up Monkey Kingdom fits a similar mould to his stablemate The Romford Pele having jumped well enough on chase debut and looks the type to be winning some nice handicaps in the future. Broadway Buffalo made a shocking mistake at the second but to his credit jumped better as the race progressed. He will want at least three miles and softer ground to see him at his optimum whilst Prima Porta was unlucky to fall after over jumping at three out.

For write-up purposes, the four year old limited handicap hurdle has no use whatsoever for the form book as the start was a complete farce with nobody wanting to make the running. Full marks however must go to Harry Skelton on the top weight Bertimont for using his brain and poaching an unassailable lead at the beginning of the back straight to win eased down by sixteen lengths. Unfortunately for the horse, the handicapper will have to put him up so you have to hope common sense prevails and he doesn’t go up too much.

Whilst Skelton deserves praise for his quick thinking, his fellow riders which include senior jockeys in the weighing room were made to look complete and utter fools and it robbed the betting public of a proper race with one horse given an unbelievable advantage. The most surprising aspect of this was that the stewards didn’t even hold an inquiry into the race. I have a feeling it won’t be the last we have heard of this incident.

Doctor Richard Newland has a horse to be excited about apart from Pineau De Re in Boondooma who bolted up in the two and a half mile handicap hurdle under seven pound claimer Christopher Ward. He travelled easily throughout before sealing the race in decisive fashion. It will be interesting to see what the handicapper makes of this but he could be back at Chepstow for the Silver Trophy or he could go for the intermediate handicap hurdle at the Paddy Power meeting. Peckhamecho ran well back in second and would be interesting if he goes back chasing off a nice enough mark whilst Agreement was outrunning his odds before falling at the second last.

For hardcore jumps fans, the three mile handicap chase was the race of the day with many old timers returning yet again for another season and it was pleasing to see Victor’s Serenade back in the winners’ enclosure. He ran in this race two years ago where he travelled really well before making a shocking mistake five out and was pulled up instantly. Last season, his trainer Antony Honeyball’s yard was plagued with a virus so it should explain his poor run in the Classic Chase. He travelled well throughout the contest for Denis O’Regan and apart from making a slight error at both five out and the last, he stayed on stoutly to take a deserved win.

The runner up Monbeg Dude looked a completely different horse to the one we saw blundering his way round the same course when winning the Welsh National. Michael Scudamore and his team deserve plenty of credit for ironing out his jumping issues as today was probably his best round with him hunting round at the back before moving into contention. Although he is a strong stayer, the Grand National probably stretched him but he could easily make into a leading contender in the big staying chase at the Paddy Power meeting which he won two years ago and the Becher Chase as he looked to enjoy the National fences and whilst Paul Carberry suits this horse’s waiting tactics, Tom Scudamore has looked a very able substitute both times he has ridden him.

Handy Andy should be winning a race or two of this nature this season whilst Benbens is worth another go over three miles after a jolting mistake in the back straight before plugging on again. Highland Lodge in first time headgear looked very dangerous on the turn for home but didn’t pick up which is confusing as his best efforts seem to come when fresh.

The concluding bumper was won in taking style by the 100,000 Euro purchase Duke Des Champs who stuck his head down and battled tenaciously to fend off Herbert Park. The winner’s dam is a half-sister to dual Gold Cup placed Harbour Pilot and there looked plenty of promise today from this son of Robin Des Champs. Herbert Park showed plenty of promise and will be winning a bumper in the near future. The favourite Murphy’s Way will benefit from softer ground and when the time comes, a step up in distance whilst Salvator’s Legacy was certainly not disgraced back in fourth considering his bid odds.

 

Horses to take from today

Emerging Talent – Will be a long term plan but looks a very nice horse.

Bandit Country – When he gets a handicap mark, he will be very interesting.

Boondooma – Could be well ahead of the handicapper and has the potential to win some nice races this season.

Monbeg Dude – His jumping was spot on today and can easily bag another staying handicap chase.

2014 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Day Preview

Arc day is always a favourite of mine in the calendar and it deserves attention so a blog post shall suffice! To go with this post, we did a video just like last year covering the Group One action from Longchamp where we seemed to agree on a lot of things!

1:00 QNB PRIX DE L´ABBAYE DE LONGCHAMP (Group 1) (2yo+)  5f

We start the day with the roller coaster that is the Abbaye and in recent years the ground has been far too soft for SOLE POWER who finally gets his conditions and whilst he is clear favourite, he deserves to be. This has been his best season to date with wins in the Palace House, King’s Stand and the Nunthorpe before running well enough in the Sprint Cup when fourth to G-Force on ground softer than ideal and over six furlongs which will never see him at his best. He will get the lightning fast pace which he adores and as long as Richard Hughes isn’t looking for trouble in the traffic, he should win. He is also attempting to become the first horse since Dayjur in 1990 to complete the King’s Stand/Nunthorpe/Abbaye treble.

Sole Power winning the King's Stand this year under a confident Richard Hughes.
Sole Power winning the King’s Stand this year under a confident Richard Hughes.

Although I think Sole Power will win, it wouldn’t be fair to dismiss his opponents as several have finished close to him on more than one occasion. Stepper Point has been in the form of his life this season and has failed to run a bad race all year. He was second in both the King’s Stand and the Nunthorpe behind Sole Power before finally getting his head in front in a Group Three at the Curragh last time out. His draw of 14 is a concern though.

The draw is also a concern for the two year old Cotai Glory who blazed a trail at Doncaster before unseating George Baker in spectacular style just before the line in the Flying Childers. I was keen on Catcall at an each way price after his second in the race last year however he’s drawn in the car park in 19 and will need plenty of luck in running if he is to feature.

Those drawn low that are fancied include Take Cover and Rangali, two that I liked for the Nunthorpe. Take Cover gets his ground again after looking laboured at Newbury last time out behind the speedball that is Mecca’s Angel. The only concern for him is the amount of front runners that could take each other on here. Pace also comes from the likes of Hot Streak, Hamza and the other two year old Goken. Hot Streak will want a softer surface whilst Hamza will probably set the race up and Goken is drawn badly in 17.

Selection – Sole Power

 

1:35 TOTAL PRIX MARCEL BOUSSAC – CRITERIUM DES POULICHES (Group 1) (2yo Fillies) (Turf) 1m

The formline that looks the most noteworthy here is the Moyglare form with the second Lucida winning at Newmarket last week and Osaila winning yesterday’s Sales Race. However the pricing between Found and MALABAR is crazy considering how close they were back in third and fourth. The former won on debut nicely however the latter is preferred due to how overpriced she is and her form is standing up nicely. She was fourth to Cursory Glance in the Albany before breaking the track record on her next start at Ascot. She then won easily at Goodwood before her solid effort in Ireland and the step up to a mile will help.

Malabar breaking the track record at Ascot.
Malabar breaking the track record at Ascot.

Erveyda links with The Wow Signal who runs later on in the Lagadere and the step up in trip shouldn’t be a big issue for her. Jack Naylor has form with Agnes Stewart who has since gone on to win a Group Two at Doncaster. Shahah was a shock winner when winning last time out beating the expensive Al Naamah who runs for the same ownership Al Shaqab. Night Of Light looks a horse for next season being out of Sea The Stars but she could run well here.

 

Selection – Malabar

 

2:10 QATAR PRIX JEAN-LUC LAGARDERE (Grand Criterium) (Group 1) (2yo Colts & Fillies) (Turf) 7f

The Wow Signal winning the Coventry at Royal Ascot.
The Wow Signal winning the Coventry at Royal Ascot.

Another race where the foreign challenge look to have a strong hand with Group One winners THE WOW SIGNAL and Gleneagles. Preference is for the former as he remained unbeaten after a good win in the Prix Morny where he beat the speedball that is Hootenanny on very bad ground. Before that on quick ground at Royal Ascot in the Coventry, he was even more impressive coming from stall one in the centre of the track where the draw bias was towards the stands rail and the higher numbers plus the form of the race looks solid. The step up to seven furlongs should pose no issue to this son of Starspangledbanner and he could very easily make into a 2,000 Guineas contender next year.

Gleneagles hasn’t done much wrong himself with a win last time out in the National Stakes at the Curragh but his form isn’t as strong as The Wow Signal’s. Full Mast was given an clever front-running ride last time out by Thierry Thulliez where he beat Nucifera and TERRITORIES by dictating a steady pace over course and distance before kicking on and winning cosily. He won’t get his own way out in front and the latter mentioned looks overpriced.

When Full Mast kicked, he got outpaced before running on into third with Maxine Guyon not being overly hard on the horse. I think he will reverse the form with Nucifera and could easily grab a place. Of the rest Citron Spirit won well at Baden-Baden last time out but could be up against it here, War Envoy is an interesting second string for O’Brien with Ryan Moore booked and Aktabantay carries first time blinkers after his Solario Stakes success. Any rain for him wouldn’t be welcome.

Selections – The Wow Signal & Territories (E/W)

 

2:45 PRIX DE L´OPERA LONGINES (Group 1) (3yo+ Fillies & Mares) (Turf) 1m2f

Tarfasha winning last time out at the Curragh.
Tarfasha winning last time out at the Curragh.

This doesn’t look the strongest renewal of the Opera and I expect the three year olds to fight out the finish. We Are has been very unlucky this season having had two wins taken away from her due to an unsatisfactory dope test due to an ovarian cyst which was operated on.

She returned a few weeks ago where she was outpaced in a Listed race before staying on at the finish. That looked a good warm up for here and she should be going close however the Oaks runner up TARFASHA appeals most. She didn’t stay twelve furlongs in the Oaks and the drop back in distance to ten furlongs will be perfectly ideal for her. She won nicely beating Chicquita last time out and this looks a good opportunity for her to pick up a Group One.

Ribbons was a Group One winner last time out surprisingly in a Prix Jean Romanet after getting beat off a mark of 95. She probably wants a softer surface to feature more whilst Narniyn was a disappointing fourth and needs to bounce back. Sultanina ran well enough when probably not staying last time out in the Vermeille when fifth. The drop in distance will help and ground won’t be an issue.

Shamkala looked an exciting filly before the Diane where she was fourth to Avenir Certain but since has disappointed when behind Star Lahib. She will need to show her early season form to feature here. Hadaatha is a fascinating contender who will probably improve again next year if allowed to stay in training having only had three starts. German Derby winner Feodora wants twelve furlongs and softer ground and Crisolles will hopefully run well to give Avenir Certain a form boost before the Arc.

Selection – Tarfasha

 

3:30 QATAR PRIX DE L´ARC DE TRIOMPHE (Group 1) (3yo+ No Geldings) (Turf) 1m4f

Around two months ago, the appetite for the Arc was insatiable with plenty of lofty reputations ready to be placed on the line. Fast forward to now and we have the most wide open Arc in years. The absence of easy German Derby winner Sea The Moon and dual Derby winner Australia takes away some of the intrigue plus Taghrooda losing her unbeaten status in the Yorkshire Oaks after being found to be in season means at the time of writing, the race is 7/1 the field.

Taghrooda powering to victory in the Pretty Polly.
Taghrooda powering to victory in the Pretty Polly.

The place to start is with John Gosden’s filly who was so impressive in both the Oaks and again in the King George where she beat her elders in convincing style. The Yorkshire Oaks was a shock at the time when she was beaten but being in season plus the effects of a hard race in the King George may have left a mark. Her draw is a slight concern being in 15 although Treve came from the same stall last year and if Gosden can get more improvement from her then she must go close.

Ectot winning the Prix Niel.
Ectot winning the Prix Niel.

Ectot is the one near the head of the market that I just cannot have at all. Yes, he is a very strong traveller and his turn of foot to seal the Prix Niel was devastating however they went slow which suited him plus he stopped once he hit the front and I cannot recall an Arc winner who was delivered at the last possible moment to hit the front. It will be fascinating to see what his pacemaker Montviron does but he will need a masterclass ride from Gregory Benoist.

Avenir Certain winning the Prix de Diane.
Avenir Certain winning the Prix de Diane.

Benoist had a decision to make however Ectot’s trainer Elie Lallouche wanted him to choose his colt as he is the only rider to have ridden him on a racecourse. The horse Benoist turned down is the unbeaten three year old filly AVENIR CERTAIN who I think is the likely winner. She has stamina questions to answer but she has done absolutely nothing wrong so far and did the double in the French Guineas/Oaks. She won her prep race at Deauville easily beating stablemate Crisolles and is still going into the race underrated. The only possible negative could be the draw as she’s drawn right on the inside and could end up trapped on the fence.

Just A Way reigned supreme in the Dubai Duty Free. The distance a worry here.
Just A Way reigned supreme in the Dubai Duty Free. The distance a worry here.

The Japanese trio are headed by Just A Way who on figures is the best horse in the race. His Dubai Duty Free win at Meydan was stunning when he destroyed the field there before just getting up near the line on soft ground in the Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo. If the Arc was run over ten furlongs, then this would be a formality however twelve furlongs is the big concern. If he stays, he wins.

Harp Star should be unbeaten however she was given a poor ride when taken extremely wide and got going too late when second in the Japanese Oaks. She then beat Gold Star in the Sapporo Kinen over ten furlongs and she will definitely stay so she will be in the first three guaranteed a clear run. Gold Star looks a difficult ride especially as he got detached before staying on. He will appreciate the extra distance but he cannot get detached like he did last time out.

Treve hasn't gone on since her triumph in this race twelve months ago.
Treve hasn’t gone on since her triumph in this race twelve months ago.

Last year’s winner Treve hasn’t gone on since her unbelievable win where nothing went right and she slammed her rivals in such an impressive manner. She was given a hard enough race on return in the Ganay behind Cirrus Des Aigles before looking scratchy at Royal Ascot in the Prince of Wales when third behind The Fugue on rattling fast ground.  In saying that, she did break the track record albeit not winning so it was still an excellent performance however her run in the Vermeille, even though a preparation was still disappointing. The Treve of old would have picked those up and carried them across the line but she didn’t look the force of old and the ground is against her.

Al Shaqab’s final contender is Ruler Of The World and he could be the surprise of the race and one I’ve changed my mind about. Last year’s Derby winner was given a great front running ride by Frankie Dettori in the Prix Foy on Arc Trials day, he beat Flintshire in good style and with a potential question about the pace in the race, Dettori could sit handy on him and he has done that to great effect in the Arc before on Lammtarra in 1995 and Sakhee in 2001. This also looks to have been the plan this season compared to last year where he came here after a busier campaign, he definitely has place claims.

Aidan O’Brien saddles two other runners after Ruler Of The World in Tapestry and Chicquita. The former lowered the colours of Taghrooda in the Yorkshire Oaks when appreciating every yard of the trip. She was then stepped back to a mile on Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown and it was the wrong decision as she disappointed. She should run a big race but whether she’s good enough to win is another matter.

Chicquita winning last season's Irish Oaks.
Chicquita winning last season’s Irish Oaks.

Chicquita is a hugely difficult ride and famous for falling on her second start when crashing into the bush when having the race won at Saint-Cloud. She then went onto finish second to Treve in the Prix de Diane despite hanging all the way across the track and she did the exact same when winning the Irish Oaks. She ran well enough on her return behind Tarfasha without showing her wayward tendencies but that would still be a huge worry in the hustle and bustle of the Arc but she does has a lot of talent.

Kingston Hill won the St Leger last time out by showing his class but he has to contend with the draw in the car park in stall 20 where he will either be forced to drop in or go forward. He had a similar dilemma in the Derby and will need something similar to feature. Likewise Ivanhowe drawn next to him in 19 who won the Preis von Baden-Baden beating the now retired Sea The Moon by four lengths and on his day is a smart performer however he will struggle to win from there.

Flintshire could outrun his odds on his favoured good ground.
Flintshire could outrun his odds on his favoured good ground.

Flintshire looks the forgotten horse of the race. He gets the good ground that he loves and will be primed by the master that is Andre Fabre after his second in the Prix Foy. He also ran well earlier in the season in the Coronation Cup behind Cirrus Des Aigles before a below par effort behind Spiritjim (subsequently disqualified) in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud but the ground was against him that day. He missed the King George due to an infection and he will be trained to the minute and he is a big price.

Dolniya was an improving filly but looked one paced last time in the Vermeille behind Baltic Baroness but she is a three year old filly and they have an excellent record in the race. Prince Gibraltar is interesting in the first time visor but he looked a difficult character last time out whilst the rest aren’t good enough.

1) Avenir Certain

2) Flintshire

3) Harp Star

 

 

4:50 QATAR PRIX DE LA FORET (Group 1) (3yo+) (Turf) 7f

A good renewal of the Foret however I don’t expect a performance like we saw from Moonlight Cloud who went through the gears like a Formula One car would in a spellbinding performance. Like last year, Freddy Head does have a well fancied runner in Anodin who has been a hugely likeable performer this season with placed efforts in Group Ones over nine furlongs behind Cirrus Des Aigles in the Prix d’Ispahan, over a mile behind Toronado in the Queen Anne and Kingman in the Jacques le Marois. This feels similar to the same to Goldikova as she used to use this as a preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Mile and this could be on the sharp side for him.

The same could be said for KARAKONTIE who hasn’t been seen since not staying ten furlongs in the Prix du Jockey Club. Given a break to freshen up, this French 2,000 Guineas winner comes into this with an excellent chance; it’s just whether he is fully ready or not.

Karakontie beating Noohzoh Canarias in last season's Lagardere.
Karakontie beating Noohzoh Canarias in last season’s Lagardere.

Olympic Glory has several negatives. He is drawn badly and although he won the Lagadere over course and distance as a two year old, his best form has come on a straight track as since that win, he has disappointed all three times he has returned to Longchamp. Gordon Lord Byron has ran well here the last two years including when he won the race back in 2012. He should give another good account.

Garswood was third in the race last year and didn’t go on from that until last time out when he won the Group One Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. He will need a career best to win here. Fiesolana won the Matron last time beating Rizeena but the drop back to seven furlongs would be a slight concern.

Ansgar benefitted from a brilliant front running ride in the Park Stakes from James Doyle however the worry here is that with a good amount of front runners, he may struggle to get his own way out in front with the likes of Noohzoh Canarias and That Is The Spirit likely front runners. Aljamaaheer has been the bridesmaid yet again this season in the sprinting division and was second to Ansgar at Doncaster. He gets his ground but is drawn out wide in 14.

Noohzoh Canarias is another who finally gets his ground after laboured effort on softer ground the last twice. If he returns to his 2,000 Guineas form then he could make 25/1 look a silly price.

Selection – Karakonite

 

Cadran piece I wrote here – http://www.sportismadeforbetting.com/2014/10/prix-du-cadran-preview.html

 

Thank you for reading and the very best of luck to you!

Adam’s Extra Ten to Follow – 2014/15

When writing the original horses to follow piece, I had a list of around forty horses to consider. During the process, some were taken out due to clashing categories and others due to having second thoughts which left me with a reasonable list of twenty. That piece is available to read here. (http://jpfestival.com/horses-to-follow-2/201415-jump-horses-follow)

I was then asked by Dean from Racing Groups if I could contribute a ten to follow list for his site so I have duly obliged. Some that are in this list failed to make the original list but not for negative reasons. For instance, Seeyouatmidnight was removed because there were already several staying novice chasers however the likes of Son Du Berlais, The Outlaw and Westhorpe were through recent news in the Racing Post and rechecking my tracker.

I would also like to thank Will Kedjayni for proof-reading the final word document.

 

ANALIFET – 4 – Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins ended last season with the top rated juvenile hurdler in Abbyssial but it could very easily have been his stablemate Analifet whose season ended prematurely when fracturing her pelvis over Christmas at Leopardstown. Before that she had looked a filly of huge quality when bolting up on debut at Punchestown when beating stable companion Noble Inn without needing to come off the bridle. The same comment applies to her second start in a Grade Three at Fairyhouse when again beating the same rival with consummate ease and underlining leading claims for the Triumph Hurdle.

She returns this season and still remains an exciting proposition as we still don’t know how good she could be and is certainly better than just competing in mares’ only contests although the likely end of year target would be the Mares Hurdle. If allowed to try herself at the top level, she could even progress into a lively outsider for the Champion Hurdle.

 

BATTLE BORN – 5 – Charlie Longsdon

Charlie Longsdon has a lovely bunch of younger horses going novice hurdling this season with the likes of A Vos Gardes and Our Kaempfer flying the flag but this son of Kayf Tara has shown plenty of promise on all his starts to date.

He began in a Point to Point where he was second to the highly regarded No More Heroes at Dromahane before moving to Longsdons’ yard. His first run under rules was at Haydock in a bumper where he seemed outpaced before plugging on to finish third behind Desoto County and Wuff. He then got off the mark on deep ground at Warwick when using his experience from Haydock to make all the running and stayed on stoutly to beat King’s Odyssea. He then won impressively by thirty one lengths at Bangor with Charlie Deutsch claiming seven pounds to remove the penalty received for his Warwick win.

For his final bumper start, he went to Aintree for their Champion Bumper and wasn’t disgraced on better ground when attempting to make all the running when sixth behind Ballybolley; only beaten eight lengths. A step up in trip over hurdles will bring out more in him and his ability to handle deep ground will be to his advantage over the winter.

 

BLUE FASHION – 5 – Nicky Henderson

In the original list of horses to follow, Nicky Henderson only made one appearance with the hugely exciting Beat That however in this instalment he makes two more with this son of Scorpion. For an Irish bred horse, he went the unusual way of starting his career in France where he showed a fair level of form in his juvenile days on very soft ground. His final run in France but his first under Henderson’s name was a fair effort when fourth behind the impressive Diakali and was only three and a half lengths behind the runner up Ptit Zig who looks a top chasing prospect for Paul Nicholls.

He only appeared once in England last season at Haydock when he was second in a highly competitive handicap behind World Hurdle winner More Of That giving him six pounds and was beaten two lengths. He is entitled to have improved hugely especially given his imposing size as he just looks an out and out chaser. Two and a half miles should be his ideal distance to start off at with potential early season targets including the Berkshire Novices’ Chase in which Henderson has a good recent record with four winners since the turn of the millennium including dual Aintree Foxhunters winner Katarino in 2001 and the 2013 Gold Cup winner Bob’s Worth. He should also get three miles in time and looks a horse with a bright future over the larger obstacles.

 

CANTLOW – 9 – Paul Webber

It’s unusual to see an older horse in these horses to follow list however Cantlow is different for a few reasons. His profile to me screams out for one race late in the campaign which he could either be ideally suited to or take an instant dislike to in the Crabbie’s Grand National.

He was first noticed when second to Saint Are in the 2011 Sefton Novice Hurdle at the Grand National meeting when staying on strongly into second on the run in. His next season was then planned around the Pertemps Final where he finished third behind Cape Tribulation before going novice chasing where he was given some enterprising rides whilst attempting to get a handicap mark including when second to this year’s Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy although he fractured his pelvis during that victory.

Unfortunately for connections, he made it to his main target of the season the Byrne Group Plate where he bled down at the start so was withdrawn on veterinary advice before being a huge disappointment at Aintree in a handicap chase won by Battle Group. Last season began at Wetherby where he looked to need the run behind Ultimate before going on to win at Newbury over two and a half miles beating Easter Meteor but not after a significant error four out.

This trait continued on his next start where he made a bad error just after halfway in the Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup in December at Cheltenham before staying on behind Double Ross. That race has worked out unbelievably well with the winner third in a Grade One, the second Colour Squadron and fifth John’s Spirit both confirming their running in this year’s Byrne Group Plate and Ma Filleule now rated 163 after a devastating display in the Topham Trophy over the National fences.

Cantlow returned to the Festival for the Baylis & Harding Handicap Chase where he was travelling well before falling in front of the stands around the halfway mark. He then got left at the start at Aintree over hurdles so can be forgiven there and ended his season with a solid effort in the Irish National carrying top weight when eighth to Shutthefrontdoor.

The reasons I believe the Grand National will suit this horse are as follows. His profile resembles a mishmash of both Don’t Push It and Sunnyhillboy in particular ways as they both interested me for the race when they both first ran in it. His half-brother was a staying Grade One novice winner Darkness and like Cantlow, he had a tendency to clout a fence so stamina wouldn’t be much of a worry. I also believe he is the type of horse who would relish the challenge of Aintree even though his jumping is questionable at the best of times.

One thing he does need to do is finish in the first four in a three mile plus chase however on the evidence of how he finishes his races off, that isn’t a big worry. A bit more of a left-field selection which could either reap the rewards or leave me with egg on my face.

 

CHATEZ – 3 – Alan King

This entry might not even go jumping at all but I feel if he does then he will be a force to be reckoned with in juvenile hurdles. His trainer Alan King has done particularly well in this sphere in recent years with examples including Triumph Hurdle winners in Penzance and 2008 Champion Hurdle winner Katchit. Chatez has shown a fair level of form on the flat rated 98 including a big handicap win in the Silver Bowl at Haydock on soft ground. He also appeared at Royal Ascot where on quicker ground he wasn’t disgraced in the Britannia when eleventh to Born In Bombay beaten seven lengths.

His last current run at the time of writing was over ten furlongs where he was beaten by a well handicapped horse in Winter Thunder on Newmarket’s July course. He hasn’t been seen since which could either imply connections are waiting for a juvenile hurdle campaign or softer ground on the flat. If they go juvenile hurdling he could easily make up into a leading contender for either the Triumph Hurdle or the Fred Winter depending on what ability he shows.

 

KELTUS – 4 – Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls has some nice horses from his bunch of juveniles with the likes of Calipto and Katgary, but Keltus looks to be one who has slipped slightly under the radar after some hugely promising efforts at the back end of last season.

His career in the UK began well with success at Chepstow in a juvenile hurdle where he jumped efficiently to beat Wooly Bully by five lengths before disappointing slightly in the Wensleydale behind Royal Irish Hussar at Wetherby. He then finished second in a handicap hurdle at Huntingdon when trying to make all the running behind Fergall in December.

With the winter ground setting in, he was put away for the Fred Winter in which he could be described as unlucky as he was virtually taken out by the fallen Astre De La Cour and lost several lengths. Despite that, he ran an eye-catching race up the hill to finish fourth behind Hawk High before not appreciating the softer underfoot conditions when fourth behind Dispour at Sandown however he certainly wasn’t disgraced beaten less than four lengths.

As he wants a sounder surface, his potential targets will be very early in the campaign and during the spring. He looks to be going on a novice chase campaign as he is entered tomorrow in a novice chase at Newton Abbot against Court Minstrel. This route is interesting for him with Nicholls deciding to use the advantage of the 4yo weight allowance which he did successfully with Valco De Touzaine twelve months ago however he wouldn’t be out of place in a competitive handicap hurdle on decent ground.

 

SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT – 6 – Sandy Thomson

One of my personal highlights of last season was watching the progression over hurdles of this son of Midnight Legend who looks every inch a chaser in the making. He doesn’t come from a fashionable yard in Sandy Thomson which isn’t meant offensively but has looked a very smart individual who lowered some big colours.

On his hurdling debut, he was sent off 66/1 at Hexham where he went out and made every yard of the running to be the highly regarded Regal Encore over two miles on heavy ground. That distance was always going to be on the sharp side for him and for his next start at Musselburgh he was stepped up to three miles for the Albert Bartlett Trial where again he went off an unfancied 22/1 but again won beating Racing Pulse by nine lengths. Instead of contesting the Grade Two novice hurdle on Haydock’s Grand National Trial day, the Rendlesham was decided upon as his next race where yet again he went from the front and showed his tenaciousness when slogging it out on desperately bad ground to beat Mickie with 2013 World Hurdle runner up and recently retired Celestial Halo back in third.

He was probably found out slightly on better ground at Aintree in the Sefton but still ran a nice race whilst not being able to keep up with Beat That and Cole Harden after the second last with both of those having the potential to make up into World Hurdle candidates. After that he wasn’t beaten up by Ryan Mania who looked after him to come home in third. Novice chasing will be the plan this season and given plenty of cut in the ground over three miles plus, he will be some force to be reckoned with however if he was to race on better ground I wouldn’t hold it against him. He could be a potential type for the National Hunt Chase on better ground where his strong stamina would come into play.

 

SON DU BERLAIS – 4 – Nicky Henderson

This horse is a very late addition to my horses to follow having read the Racing Post on Monday. He only raced twice in France for his trainer Robert Collet and his introduction to racing at Auteuil was a hair-raising experience as he almost got carried out at the second hurdle when the leader decided to run out and proceeded to take half the field with him. He recovered to finish fourth in the end but the run is best forgotten. (Link to the incident with Son Du Berlais carrying the red colours – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9xavEaGE4w)

His next start is what brought him to my attention when researching for possible reasons why he would be at Nicky Henderson’s yard. The proof was when returned to Auteuil in March and won very impressively, having sprinted from the final hurdle to win as he pleased with plenty in the tank. (Link to Son Du Berlais’ win at Auteuil -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s07nmGc36ME)

The form hasn’t worked out too well however on the eye it was a really taking performance from a horse that could make into a smart prospect in England. One thing to note is that he loses his novice hurdle status at the beginning of November and his first main target is the Persian War at Chepstow at the end of October. If he wins that impressively he could follow the route that Silviniaco Conti took after winning the race by going to the Ascot Hurdle. A drop back to the minimum trip at some point wouldn’t be the worst idea with his turn of foot either.

Son Du Berlais is now due to run tomorrow at Newton Abbot.

 

THE OUTLAW – 4 – Paul Nicholls

This son of Presenting wouldn’t be one mentioned in many horses to follow lists but his one and only start at Taunton showed plenty of promise when second to a more experienced rival in One For The Guv’Nr whilst showing plenty of greenness. He will probably run in at least another bumper before going hurdling where he will improve for a step up in distance and like many from the yard, he will be given time to grow into his frame.

 

WESTHORPE – 5 – Willie Mullins

The final horse to make the list comes from Willie Mullins and is a novice hurdler who probably won’t be at the top of the pecking order with the amount of talent going hurdling from the stable including Shaneshill, Tell Us More, Allez Columbieres and Black Hercules however he does look a potentially nice performer.

On his only racecourse outing to date in February, he beat the Paul Nolan trained Fine Article in a Fairyhouse bumper after travelling easily throughout the race and putting it to bed in game fashion despite showing some signs of greenness in the final furlong. The second then went on to win nicely at Gowran before posting a solid effort when fourth in the Grade One bumper at Punchestown behind Shaneshill beaten eight and a quarter lengths and the third Officer Cadet also came out and won at Downpatrick.

It would be no surprise to see him return in another bumper before going over hurdles at the minimum distance to start off with. He should at least get two and a half in time.

Royal Ascot 2014 – Day 5 Preview

Having not blogged throughout the week due to a busy schedule, I have some free time to write a blog previewing tomorrow’s action on the final day of Royal Ascot.

Throughout the week, myself and the lads at Ontheotherhoof have done a video each night without fail, tonight being no exception. We hope you have enjoyed them as much as we have making them and we can have one more successful day to end the week on a high and make the effort of doing daily videos worthwhile. We would also like to thank everyone who has watched and joined in by asking questions or sending in selections, it makes doing the show a wonderful experience with us getting to share our passion for the sport with true racing fans.

Also, we would like to thank Martin Smith who took time out of his very busy schedule to talk to myself and Luke about the chances of Hillbilly Boy who ran a fantastic race in defeat in the Buckingham Palace and I’m sure there are plenty more days for him to be in the winner’s enclosure!

One more thanks goes to Sean (@schrise) for running the champion tipster competition on Twitter even though I have done pretty dreadful! There’s still one more day to come back!

 

Toscanini when second last time out to Kool Kompany
Toscanini when second last time out to Kool Kompany

2:30 Chesham Stakes 7f (2yo)

Out of the two year old races this week, this isn’t the most inspiring of them. Although Dick Whittington won last week at Navan in comfortable fashion, Aidan O’Brien’s two year olds haven’t performed at all this week and a price of 15/8 is far too short so he is readily opposed.

Wesley Ward is double handed in this race as Cordero and Crown The Kitten bring the typical international flavour that we have seen throughout the week in these races. The latter was second to Sunset Glow who was second in today’s Albany however could be too speedy for this race. The former has yet to make his racecourse debut and is tricky to weigh up although the jockey booking of Ryan Moore is highly intriguing.

The selection in the race is TOSCANINI who has some good form with Capella Sanservero who was second earlier in the week in the Coventry behind The Wow Signal and was a staying on second to Kool Kompany at Naas although that race hasn’t completely worked out with the winner and War Envoy not running too well in the same race on Tuesday. Michael Halford’s charge will definitely appreciate the step up in distance and should appreciate the faster ground.

Selection – Toscanini Win

Elidor winning last season's King George V Handicap
Elidor winning last season’s King George V Handicap

3:05   Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap 1m4f (4yo+)

The best place to start here is with the favourite and top weight Arab Spring who continues to progress nicely having recently won a York handicap over twelve furlongs off a mark of 96 beating Duke Of Clarence by half a length. Off an eight pound higher mark, he will have to be Group class to be winning this and whilst he potentially could be, there are others that look better treated.

This includes last year’s King George V Handicap winner ELIDOR who loves fast ground and ran a personal best off the same mark in Listed company over course and distance last time out behind Gatewood and Pether’s Moon. Before that, he had won a Thirsk handicap in convincing style and he looks to have been laid out for this. With William Twiston-Davies able to claim three pounds, he has a huge chance for a Royal Ascot handicap double.

Hamelin ran well over course and distance in a handicap last time out behind Al Saham although that doesn’t look the strongest form. The Godolphin pair both look interesting with Groundbreaking who bolted up in a Newmarket handicap last time out and WADI AL HATTAWI who was impressive in a York handicap. Although the winning distance is only one and a quarter lengths, the way he put the race to bed that day was highly impressive and with Kieran Fallon in the saddle already tasting success in these silks this week on the ultra-impressive Elite Army, he can go very close.

Havana Cooler is one that will potentially come on for the run with something like the Ebor looking a good target later in the season and he links in with Dashing Star as they were both placed in last season’s Melrose at York over further behind Dark Crusader. The latter ran well on return at Newmarket and will have come on for that whilst Beacon Lady takes a big drop in class having contested the Coronation Cup when sixth to Cirrus Des Aigles and she could be overpriced here.

Selections – Elidor Win & Wadi Al Hattawi E/W

Forgotten Voice slamming his rivals in the Royal Hunt Cup back in 2009
Forgotten Voice slamming his rivals in the Royal Hunt Cup back in 2009

3:45   Hardwicke Stakes 1m4f (4yo+)

On paper this looks a much better renewal than last year. Since 2005, Sir Michael Stoute has won this race four times with Maarahel, Harbinger and Sea Moon. He fields the first two in the market in Telescope and Hillstar. The former has finished second twice to the rejuvenated Noble Mission twice this season over ten furlongs at Sandown and Chester albeit on softer ground.

If he isn’t winning tomorrow over what could be perceived as his ideal ground and distance then connections will surely be baffled however, he does fit a similar mould to Harbinger who was also owned by Highclere who won this before his domination of the King George later that season.

Hillstar won the King Edward VII here last season but the form of that race hasn’t exactly worked out but would have a chance based on his career best in last season’s King George behind Novellist. However, with reports from home saying that Estimate trounced him on the gallops last week, this can be held against him although she did run the race of her life in the Ascot Gold Cup on Thursday.

FORGOTTEN VOICE is a veteran of the game having won twice at the Royal meeting when 4/1 favourite in the Royal Hunt Cup back in 2009 and last year in the Wolverton. He comes here on the back of a good second behind Mount Athos over further in the Aston Park Stakes at Newbury and has the potential to go very close for Kieren Fallon. Pether Moon’s is also interesting back on his preferred ground and if Elidor runs well in the previous race then his supporters can be filled with some confidence. Eye Of The Storm was fourth to Missunited last time out at Leopardstown showing that he needed the run and the form has taken a fair boost with the mare running a fantastic race in the Gold Cup. Sharestan is probably better on a softer surface whilst Dandino will need the run.

Selection – Forgotten Voice E/W

 

Slade Power winning on his seasonal reappearance at the Curragh
Slade Power winning on his seasonal reappearance at the Curragh

4:25 Diamond Jubilee Stakes 6f (3yo+)

Finally, the golden opportunity for SLADE POWER to take a fully deserved Group One success. Edward Lynam’s sprinter has been the bridesmaid on several occasions throughout his career in Group Ones when third to Lethal Force in the July Cup at Newmarket and second to Gordon Lord Byron in the Sprint Cup at Haydock. His win on Champions Day last year showed his class when beating Jack Dexter at a time when over six furlongs and soft ground he was unbeatable. His return at the Curragh was extremely impressive where he beat a race fit Maarek by two lengths however he wouldn’t have been one hundred percent for the race. He now looks the real deal and should be shorter in the betting.

The home challenge is headed by Aljamaaheer who trainer Roger Varian is now concentrating on a sprinting campaign after finishing placed at the highest level over a mile behind Farhh and Declaration Of War last season. The ride he was given at the Craven meeting wasn’t the best as he was given far too much to do by Paul Hanagan and he stayed on to finish third behind Hamza and Es Que Love. Personally, I’m not convinced he is a sprinter and feel he will get outpaced before running on through beaten horses even with the application of blinkers.

Astaire is the main danger for me to Slade Power with the three year old allowance. He ran well last time out when second behind Maarek at York after failing to stay in the Greenham at Newbury over seven furlongs behind Kingman. This likable front runner should be in the frame. Due Diligence has been unbeaten since moving to Aidan O’Brien’s yard over the winter but needs to step up as does Darwin who can be forgiven for his run behind Slade Power as the ground wouldn’t have suited. Whether he’s good enough for this is another matter.

Gordon Lord Byron will probably need the run here before going onto his usual race the Sprint Cup. Music Master will love the ground and ran respectably when Windsor when probably not a hundred percent ready. He could have each way claims.

The main each way selection would be MEDICEAN MAN who is in the form of his life and ran a brilliant race in the King’s Stand on Tuesday behind Sole Power. Connections were very keen straight after that to come here in a weaker race plus the figures he has been running to are highly consistent. Es Que Love merits a mention too having also run well in the King’s Stand probably over a trip on the sharp side for him when ninth. Six furlongs will suit much better.

Selections – Slade Power Win & Medicean Man E/W

 

York Glory is nine pounds higher than when winning this race a year ago
York Glory is nine pounds higher than when winning this race a year ago

5:00 Wokingham Handicap 6f (3yo+)

Handicaps have been painful this week, most notably yesterday with Hillbilly Boy in the Buckingham Palace being drawn on the wrong side. Consensus between the lads on the video was that we could finally get an even race on both sides with plenty of pace from the low draw which will be headed by Hamza and Jimmy Styles. This will benefit the likes of YORK GLORY from stall 11 who loves these big field handicaps and won this off a nine pound lower mark a year ago and GLEN MOSS stall 2 who drops down in trip after an excellent effort in the Victoria Cup behind Gabrial’s Lad. They’re the likely winners for me from a lower draw although Hoof It could run a big race.

Of those drawn high, ABSOLUTELY SO looks primed to take a big sprint handicap. His return to turf last time out at Goodwood over seven furlongs was mightily impressive when beating Jack’s Revenge who ran well in the Buckingham Palace and with Oisin Murphy still claiming three pounds, he has the ability to go very close. Rocky Ground is a big player on his Windsor win and supporters of his will hope Music Master runs well in the Diamond Jubilee. Baccarat always seems to bump into one in these type of races and I suspect he will again. Seeking Magic is more of a five furlong horse but should run his usual solid race. The favourite Ninjago seems best fresh and looks vulnerable as he was really fancied to win at Newmarket on return.

Selections – Absolutely So Win & York Glory and Glen Moss E/W

Royal Irish Hussar will appreciate this stamina test
Royal Irish Hussar will appreciate this stamina test

5:35 Queen Alexandra 2m5f159y (4yo+)

We end Royal Ascot with the longest flat race on the whole calendar and this looks one of the best renewals I’ve seen ever. Tiger Cliff looks a solid favourite being an Ebor winner and could potentially be too good for these although it seems a bit strange connections came here when he would have had a fair chance in an Ascot Gold Cup. He should stay on the evidence of his Ascot Stakes run where he was given far too much to do by Tom Queally.

Pique Sous would have been very interesting in the Ascot Stakes had his mark been one pound lower or even in the earlier Duke Of Edinburgh. He would be a deserving winner having nearly been lost to a serious bout of colic but the distance could stretch him. Whiplash Willie could also be a candidate for training performance of the flat season with Andrew Balding bringing him back after three years to win a handicap at Salisbury and to finish third behind Brown Panther in the Henry VIII Stakes last time out. The ground could be a bit lively for him though.

Mubaraza has ran consistently in big staying handicaps but is another that could see this trip being too far whilst El Salvador has disappointed on his last two starts. The selection at a price is the Nicky Henderson trained ROYAL IRISH HUSSAR who has been hurdling and hasn’t looked a natural but this extended distance looks right up his street so he could be a big price to end the week on a high.

Selection – Royal Irish Hussar Win