Hello jumps fans! Stop your shaking, come out of the cave, and enjoy a return to some sort of prominence for one of the summer highlights as Market Rasen comes to the aid of those who really need a fix with two competitive handicaps. The Summer Hurdle (2.15) is as competitive as ever so why not start with a horse who has been there and done it recently and the Swinton Hurdle winner Gwafa makes plenty of appeal. A really classy flat horse, Paul Webb’s five year-old has quickly made up into a very useful hurdler, winning twice in impressive fashion last season before unseating at the Grand National festival. Connections were disappointed but that allowed him to reserve his mark for the Swinton which he took be showing a good attitude to get the better of a competitive field which included the Scottish Champion Hurdle winner in third. The rise of 7lbs for that is fair enough here and he should take the beating once again today. Paul Nicholls got a boost with the news that several of Jared Sullivan’s best horses will be staying with him and his Mohabit is on a roll and to be respected following two demolition jobs on his last two starts. Nicholls has been battling Dan Skelton a lot – a situation which we are sure to see more of over the coming seasons – and the verve with which Skelton’s Red Tornado travelled when making it four from five in novice hurdles suggested that he’d enjoy the test of a big field handicap and he may be worth having onside in what is a seriously competitive event. The Skeltons have quickly made hay in big handicaps and in wins at Ludlow and Utoxxeter she suggested that he was still improving. On flat form, Hassle is well weighted and can expect to go well here although it is a fiercely contested race where the same could be said of a great deal of horses. In the Summer Plate (2.45) the field is no easier to sort out but it may be that another topweight could provide the answer. Ballynagour has his in and out days but his effort when second at Uttoexeter in the Summer Cup was as good as any in the field here and if putting that effort in again he can make a bold bid in an attempt to defy topweight. That day he ran into the Badger Ales Chase winner of last season in Drop Out Joe and the field in behind was filled with high class horses many of whom had won big field handicap chases. It’s worth remembering that Ballynagour himself is a past Cheltenham Festival winner and was nosed out of a Grade 1 less than a year ago, so the class is there for him if he wants to use and there’s no reason why he can’t take the beating having shown a good deal of that ability remains. Long House Hall, second in the Coral Cup, was one of four who contested a decent handicap chase at Uttoxeter when he looked to be in need of the extra trip having stayed on well from the rear. He may be able to pass the always prominent Germany Calling once again if he takes closer order here but he is short at 6/1 even given his current form. Thenival is very much in the same boat, having won a Grade 3 at Aintree over hurdles of an equivalent mark and with a slicker round of jumping he has a fair chance. Henryville was a disappointment last time with little in the tank when asked at Uttoxeter but all his previous form, including a comfortable defeat of Golden Doyen (admittedly much better off now) and a fourth in the Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice at Punchestown. He has to respond to that but he’d be shorter if it wasn’t for that run and he may well bounce right back from that effort. Cerrunos is one who looks interesting back down in trip on his return from a break whilst recent course and distance winner Cut The Corner. The novices hurdle (3.20) should be contested between Sir Toby, who made a fine debut when he was second on his British and jumping debut, Tahira, who looks a major player on these terms, and Jupiter Custos, who looked like he was going to be much better over hurdles on his debut. None make as much appeal as Hammersly Lake, who was second in the Betfred Racing ‘like Us On Facebook’ Handicap Hurdle (3.55) last October of a 3lbs lower mark. Kepy for this again, he looks to have a decent chance once again. Advice 2.15 Market Rasen, Gwafa, 1 pt win (11/2 general) 2.15 Market Rasen, 1 pt, Red Toronado (8/1 general) 2.45 Market Rasen, Ballynagour, 1 pt each/way (9/1 Stan James) 2.45 Market Rasen, Henryville, 1 pt each/way (9/1 general) 3.55 Market Rasen, 1 pt win Hammesly Lake, (6/1 general)
Note: Wednesday’s tips can be found in the Members’ Area – For Daily Tips and Plays throughout Royal Ascot week, you can join the JPFestival.com Community for access – details here. JP
A brief preview for Flat fans of JPFestival.com as I’m over in France and have some football matches to watch!
Queen Anne (2.30): The rain has fallen and fallen hard, so Ervedya being favourite looks the right call. That said, she is the right price now and Estoterique’s top class form makes her a must bet each/way after a good comeback race at Deauville against a speedy sort in the shape of Attendu. She goes on any ground and will be there at the finish if repeating her performance from last year, when a good second to Solow.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Estoterique (8/1 Bet365)
Coventry (3.05): Rain is no issue for the Irish challenge and hopefully Mokarris handles it. That said, there’s no desire to change from the pairing of Psychedelic Funk and him. No change.
Kings Stand (3.40): If you’ve missed the party on Mecca’s Angel then you’re going to the Funeral as she’s gone less than 2/1 and it’s a surprise that Profitable, who won fair and square in the Temple, is 5’s. Acapulco makes little appeal without her weight and physical advantage of last year and maybe Pearl Secret can take a big hand at a nice price.
St James’ Palace (4.20): Rain won’t bother the leading pair, who I expect to have the race between themselves on the likely surface. Emotionless should be OK with it but would have wanted a quicker surface.
Ascot Stakes (4.55): Our first choice was balloted out but Jennies Jewel looks to have a standout chance. A fine jumping mare, she was deeply impressive at the Curragh on her return to the flat and has plenty in hand of the handicapper on that evidence and also the evidence of our jumping exploits. She makes more appeal, only marginally than a legion of Godolphin contenders and three major players from Ireland.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Jennies Jewel (9/1 Bet365, 8’s)
Windsor Castle Stakes (5.30): The Irish haven’t had a great history in this but the way Mister Trader made Caravaggio work for his win in the Marble Hill with several other winners behind makes for good reading and if he repeats that form he should be up to going close. The ground not being an issue for him only makes one feel more strongly about his chances in any case.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Mister Trader (8/1 general)
Best of luck and enjoy the racing!
For Daily Tips and Plays throughout Royal Ascot week, you can join the JPFestival.com Community – details here.
As Tesio, one of the kingpins of breeding himself, said: “The Thoroughbred exists because its selection has depended, not on experts, technicians, or zoologists, but on a piece of wood: the winning post of the Epsom Derby. If you base your criteria on anything else, you will get something else, not the Thoroughbred.”
It is a reminder of the legacy of today’s Epsom Derby (4.30) that the above remains true to this very day, with generations upon generations of our greatest stars having passed the post infront after the incredible journey that the Downs takes. At The Races analyst and Final Furlong star Kevin Blake best describes it here – https://t.co/0amRhLPfbg – but it’s one of many factors that makes today’s event so wonderfully open from both a sporting and betting perspective.
There are 16 runners, more than half the field is separated by less than 6lbs, the first and joint third favourites have had less than 10 runs combined and it’s 6/1 the field. In such circumstances, some will find going for the favourite a cop-out but Wings of Desire showed immense promise in landing the Dante, the strongest recognised trial for this, and if improving as one would hope, he can take the beating today.
His journey to the top has been a rapid one, having made a nice debut on his debut when running on into third at the Craven meeting over 10 furlongs. Having been out the back, he promised to improve for a step up in trip, and duly won his maiden with ease. Connections sent him for the Dante straight afterwards, and the booking of Frankie Dettori – who jumped off the proven Foundation – spoke volumes beforehand. Keen early, Dettori had him anchored in rear and with plenty to do to say the least when the race go going, but he was relentless in coming down the outside to pass most of the field and with every run it becomes clearer and clear that he was always going to get there and that over today’s extra distance he would have been even more impressive in victory.
He did not impress everybody at Breakfast With The Stars, but he has been supplemented nevertheless and the man who had last year’s Derby 1-2 can be trusted to make the right choice on his participation; It may be that he finds today coming too quickly for him – this is his fourth run in just over 31 days and he was doing halfspeeds for most of them – but others are in the same boat and in any case he can still be improving.
The trials this year may not have been the strongest overall, but in beating Deauville (Group 3 winner, Group 2 second in Royal Lodge), Foundation (unlucky in Racing Post Trophy) and coming clear nicely of a field full of prospects, he sets a standard that should see him shorter than he currently is.
Such is the esteem that US Army Ranger is held in that before he’d stepped foot on a racecourse he was being backed for this and he did nothing to dispel those vibes when taking his maiden at the Curragh on debut. Expected to improve, he did leave the bare form behind when he won the Chester Vase, travelling smoothly, but he did not impress in struggling to get past the rallying Port Douglas (fourth in the Racing Post Trophy) and Biodynamic (well behind him as well) when getting 4lbs, with the runner up handled kindly to be polite that day. One would wager that he will improve more than the runner up will on just his third start, but he must if he is to take a leading role here on many formlines (albeit he is bred in the purple to do so). Preference would be for Port Douglas of the two.
The best form in this race comes from Maasat, second in the Dewhurst and then the Guineas, when he stated on as if he’d relish 10 furlongs at the least. He has to be respected on that basis, but there are many doubts in the pedigree as to whether he’ll get a stiff 12 furlongs here. We can take or leave him, and even at the prices, I’ll leave him.
The openness of this race sees a lack of Group 1 form, but Cloth Of Stars was second in the Criterium De Saint-Cloud last year when Idaho was fourth and he has since looked just as good, winning his two races there in style, including the Prix Greffulhe in fine style when he stayed on strongly to beat Robin Of Navan. Whilst he was having his first run of the season, the time shaped very well, he promises to improve for this trip being by Sea The Stars, and he handled the course beautifully at Breakfast With The Stars. He has a great deal going for him today and is taking the same route that Pour Moi did before winning in 2011; At 9/1 he is a strong each/way bet to give Goldolphin a first Derby.
Ulysees is regally bred, being by a classic pairing of Galileo and Oaks winner Light Shift, and he has improved rapidly with three promising starts. However his contention here is partly taken on trust, given the lack of substance to his latest win (went off 4/11). Improve he will, but he is rightly priced from this standpoint. Rain in the week was a godsend for Harzand’s chances, and he has to be respected following his win in the Ballysax, but the initial impression from connections that he wouldn’t handle the track remains strongly in the mind and the juice has gone out of the course to boot. Idaho, who was behind him in the Ballysax and then third in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, can reverse the form on this better ground with his conquerors on those two occasions. It was a tight finish to the Derrinstown Stud Derby trial last time, but the winner Moonlight Magic, impressive as he was, had the run of the race that day whilst Idaho promised to improve again for another step up in trip that day having gotten going in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Shogun was ahead of him that day but has always wanted a quicker surface than he’s going to get today and his 1-8 record doesn’t make a whole load of appeal.
Algometer was second to Midterm after winning a good Newbury maiden on the same day he did, and he rallied really well to land the Cocked Hat Stakes. The further he goes the better he’s going to be and the ground is perfect, so 33’s looks overpriced but so do many here. It’s a shame that Midterm is injured, although he represented the form as well as he could at York.
The Lingfield trial hasn’t given us a winner since High Rise but Humphrey Bogart was strong at the finish and has to be respected here, having proven he handles the course when second to So Mi Dar in the Derby trial, the form of which has worked out well. However he may struggle to confirm the form with Across The Stars, who was coming with a rattle late and looked as if a stiffer finish may have seen him reverse the form.
Red Verdon is a rapidly progressive colt who could have gone for other targets but his connections deserve credit for giving him the chance to be here (as do Ulysees, given his lowly official rating). He’s a nice horse but he has not given a signal that he could play a leading role here even if coming forward again for a third run at 12 furlongs. Advice The Derby, Wings Of Desire, 1 pt win (5/1 general) The Derby, Cloth Of Stars, 1 pt each/way (8/1 general, 15/2 Paddy Power, Skybet*)
The narrative leading upto the Derby has been a fractured and compelling one, with one horse emerging as the clear leader as plenty have taken major prizes and points across the way, beating each other in the process, whilst there have been plenty who have not had their chance to shine in warm-ups and trial who could improve considerably.
Nyquist, despite winning all seven of his starts, hasn’t impressed everyone including the clockwatchers and ratings men to a notable extent but he has made his credentials clearer and is deserving of his favouritism.
The outstanding juvenile of last year, he went four wide around the first turn and three wide around the home turn but had more than enough in hand when winning the Breeders’ Cup juvenile, and in two wins this season he has looked at least as good, showing enough toe to hand off Exaggerator in the San Felipe Stakes before romping home in the Florida Derby, going further clear the more ground he covered. The form of the latter can be questioned as many, including Mohaymen, didn’t run to form there, but his attitude cannot, most of his other form cannot, and post 13 should be OK if he breaks well enough for the forward going type with Outwork and Danzing Candy stuck out wide in 15 and 20.
Exaggerator couldn’t get past Nqyuist in the San Vincente and was third behind Danzing Candy (gave weight) in the San Felipe, before Kent Desormeaux timed everything right to win the Santa Anita Derby in a wide margin. He was a little flattered by the result that day given the early speed and the slop, but if there is enough pace then few will be coming better late and this trip is a bonus as well.
Mohaymen did not enjoy the slop when favourite for the Florida Derby and can be forgiven on that basis, although the form of his Fountain Of Youth win was not well represented by Zulu, since well beaten as he stepped up to Grade 1 level. He still retains potential though and we’ve not seen the best of him.
Gun Runner has already shown himself much better at three than two with a pair of wins at Fair Grounds in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, on the latter occasion posting what seemed a good fast time figure (the final time of 1m43.94s was more than a second faster than the Grade 2 race for fillies at the same distance earlier on the card.). However over this distance he may struggle to hold off the charge of Mo Tom, blindsided behind him the last twice here. The latter has potential to outrun his price, but he must prove himself good enough here.
Brody’s Cause was one of the top juveniles last year, winning the Futurity at Keenland when coming from a seemingly impossible position of calm fractions to get past Exaggerator, and then reversing that form in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when he took a solid third. Things didn’t drop at all right for him at Tampa Bay on his reappearance, but he was a solid winner of the Blue Grass when beating My Man Sam with plenty of ease relative to the winning margin and holds one of the more solid form chances. Post 19 is not idea, but with plenty from inside him trying to go fast and rush up the early fractions then he can drop in and if there’s enough pace he’s a major threat.
Mor Spirit has never been outside of the top 2 in his seven starts and paid the price for going too quickly when he was second in the Santa Anita Derby, following scalding fractions behind Danzing Candy. The track was too wet for him that day and before he’d tried to give weight to Danzing Candy the time before, but one wonders how stall 17 complicates his own chances. Danzing Candy was a recommended each/way bet after his win in the San Felipe when he was a smooth winner who promised to improve from that winner. When in the Santa Anita Derby, he tried too hard to do the same and ended up being beaten on a sloppy track. One can forgive him that, being trying to set the pace in this field from 20 is a very hard task.
The pace collapsed in the Arkansas Derby, where Creator took the prize after coming from last to first (making up 16 lengths) to give Steven Asmussen yet another hand in the race and WinStar Farms a first winner for the combination. He can go well if there’s enough pace, and if that happens to be the case, then Suddenbreakingnews, forced to go widest of all around the home turn, can be involved too. Beaten half a length at Oakland Park, he was giving 4lbs that day to the winner and appeared to get outpaced around the home turn before coming fast late. A winner of the Southwest before finding the lack of pace in the race too much in the Rebel, it’s tempting to give him a chance here at 25/1 with much of the pace from 10 and outwards here, especially on these revised terms. Rebel Stakes second Whitmore was a fair third there but looks to have a struggle to reverse that form on these same terms.
The Wood Memorial has a chequered record as a Derby trial but the way that Outwork managed to last off strong fractions before holding off Trojan Nation in the deep stretch after duelling hard with Matt King Coal. The performance of the hold-up horses in that race suggests his performance can be marked up and he is respected on that basis; Trojan Nation’s previous form suggested that he was heavily flattered by the pace meltdown and the chances of such a scenario happening again would seem to be lessened; Other closers seem to have better claims in any case. Outwork can go well but will be hard pressed to do the same again if there is enough pressure on the front race. Shagaf, a previously smart winner of the Gotham when he got well on top late, hated the track at Aqueduct and was well behind even Trojan Nation in the early stages. His stamina is assured and connections are confident after a good week’s training.
Outwork had duelled hard with Destin in the Tampa Bay Derby but came out the best fair and square after a protracted duel, getting the best of the argument late on. He gave 4lbs to his stablemate there on just his second graded start (a previously impressive winner of the Sam F.Davis Stakes, having been beaten on his January return). The upping in trip by 1.5f and a 68 day break may not be ideal for some, but he looks overpriced on the bare balance of his form to date. It’s hard to suggest that Majesto can reverse the Florida Derby form here in any circumstance. Tom’s Ready trainer had the 35-1 2nd in 2013 & 38-1 2nd in 2014, so has to be respected, but the utter disrespect with which he was treated by Gun Runner.
Lani had already posted useful pair of performances on Dirt in Japan (twice a winner at Tokyo) showed a game attitude to win the UAE Derby. Some are of the opinion that the second did not help herself there (previously very impressive winner earlier in UAE season). Behind early, he made his ground in the back straight and was fighting around the home turn, which is encouraging for his attitude. Bred in the purple for this, it would be no surprise to see him take yet another step forward but the bare form of those around him does not convince. Oscar Nominated’s win in the Horseshoe Classic was a game one, but the time did not impress the clock-watchers and this is a very hard dirt debut for him.
Advice – UK Bookmakers
2 pts win Nyquist (3/1 general)
1 pt each/way Destin (16/1 SkyBet)
1 pt each/way Suddenbreakingnews (20/1 Bet365)
Advice – US Players
1 pt win Destin (21/1), and Suddenbreakingnews (22/1)
Advice – Already Advised
2 pts each/way Nyquist, Kentucky Derby (12/1 general), 2 April
The end of season card at Sandown today is likely to disappoint many of you – purely because it brings the curtain down on a fantastic jumping season – but it’s true that we can save the best for last, and a stunning Sandown card helps us say goodbye to a memorable season in style. First things first, a congratulatory message to Richard Johnson, a first time Champion and as dominant as his old rival AP McCoy ever was throughout this season. The 16 time runner up has been a bastion of consistency during a fine career, and the outpouring of congratulations that have come his way have been only too deserved – along with the time in the national spotlight for a fantastic ambassador. He must be long odds on to retain his title and bigger career landmarks are surely within his sights after the fifth best season of any jump jockey in the past 10 years and his personal best by a considerable margin. If he stays healthy, then 4,000 winners – with the same luck he’s had this season – his surely within his reach. The Trainers title is nowhere near done, however, and the battle between Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins has given Sandown racegoers, punters and general fans a treat as the two have 29 runners across the course of the card today with many of Colsutton’s best flying over for the assault. The difference between the two stands at £53,393 in favour of Nicholls, whose five timer last week – including the Scottish National – changed the game in favour of the home team. Mullins has 10 runners here today on a card that’s full of riches, and based on the betting markets he has plenty going for him. But odds on quotes for the title to stay home look right considering the sheet amount of place money that Nicholls can be expected to gain today and perhaps next year will be the one for him. He can kickstart his challenge in the best possible way with victory for Voix Du Reve in the Bet365 Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (2.20). The French arrival let a few down on his debut when beaten at 4/7, but he was going swimmingly in the Fred Winter at the Festival when he fell at the last and off a 5lbs higher mark he has to take all the beating today. The chief threat is Tommy Silver, seventh in the Triumph but sure to go well here, according to the betting, but Ashoka has been given a big pull in the weights from their meeting at Musselburgh in the Triumph Trial and has a nice mark for the red hot Skeltons. Duke Street may not relish the drop back in trip from 2m3f and Wolf of Windlesham can go well in a good opener. If he doesn’t hit the board in the first, Mullins will hope to take The Oaksey Chase (2.50) with Valseur Lido. The seven year old ideally would be suited by further, but he has built on a solid novice campaign with a decent season that saw him finish best of the rest in the Ryanair behind Vautour at Cheltenham. The time before he was going to take all the beating when falling at the last in the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup – whilst his second in the John Durkan doesn’t look all that bad – and the worry for him is likely to be the trip and the ground, although he’s run well at this time of year (won at Punchestown last year) and he’s well treated at these conditions, getting weight from everyone but his stablemate Ballycasey. Nicholls has three in the race, but all of Saphir Du Rheu, Rocky Creek and Wonderful Charm have their serious issues. The danger is the winner for the last two years, Menorah, who must give the pick 5lbs. The Celebration Chase (3.35), one of the feature events of the day and the second richest, gives Mullins a big opportunity with a £71,131 first prize but Un De Sceaux was trashed at Cheltenham by Sprinter Sacre and the dream comeback can have a happy ending here. Nicky Henderson’s charge found buckets when asked for a response at Cheltenham having travelled and jumped with much of the old zest that he did before his heart issues, and perhaps more crucially, he gets his ground once again with little rain overnight. Sire De Grugy, Dodging Bullets, Solar Impulse and Ulck De Lin would have mountains to climb based on previous form. The Bet365 Gold Cup (4.10) could be sure to change everything with Southfield Theatre the current joint favourite for Nicholls. Based on his second in last year’s RSA he’s on a decent mark but in the two starts before his unfortunate exit at the Cheltenham Festival he jumped poorly before being beaten all ends up and whilst he should stay based on previous impressions, more has to be taken on trust than his comfortable. Mullins brings Measureofmydreams and Sir Des Champs over, but both have weaknesses. Measureofmydreams was the pick for the Scottish National and has an obvious chance on that form – after all he was well ahead of Vincente at the Festival and Native River has since gone onto win a Grade 1 – but he didn’t jump well at the Festival and fell at the third last week where he ran loose for a least a circuit. Sir Des Champs didn’t take to Aintree but hasn’t been in the best of form since coming back from injury and whilst good ground is vital to him I’m not sure he’s the horse of old. The Young Master made up ground hand over fist in the straight at Cheltenham when an excellent fourth in the Ultima Handicap Chase, crying out for the extra distance of today, his second decent handicap effort of the season following his fourth in a strong Listed event at Ascot, and with the 3lbs claim of Sam Whaley Cohen he should be finishing stronger than almost anything whilst holding much of the best form. The same can be said of Henri Parry Morgan, who has been transformed since having a breathing operation. Connections took advantage of that rule to take decent prizes at Chepstow and Uttoxeter in style, but he was then even better when second in the Mildmay Novices Chase when well ahead of the RSA and Ultima Handicap Chase winners (albeit coming on from post Cheltenham wins) and a mark of 149 based on that is reasonable if he has recovered; He should stay this far. Saint Are, Le Reve, The Druids Nephew and The Young Master have their ground but all ran in a gruelling National and completed the course so how fresh they are will be a question mark that lingers. This has been the aim for Carole’s Destrier who should go well but he was poor at the Festival and must bounce back; Theatre Guide is now 150 but uber consistent and was such a wildly impressive winner at Kempton in a Grade 3 handicap that the mark is fair. Bishops Road’s connectios endured a frustrating week at Aintree when he fell at the first in the Topham and was balloted out of the National, but his Haydock Grand National trial win is one of the best pieces of form here today and he must be respected. An interesting springer from Nicholls could be last year’s winner Just a Par, who has the 8lbs rise negated by Harry Cobden’s claim. In the Select Hurdle (4.45), Vroum Vroum Mag meets males for the first time since joining the Mullins yard. Impressive in her two British starts, she’s likely to be popular but has yet to have a main rival run to form to date and if either of Ptit Zig or Vaniteux run to form then she could be going into the unknown and Silasol and Ubak, third and first in a competitive handicap hurdle at Aintree recently, could play a part. Court Minstrel has his ground but also has to prove his stamina at this trip to boot. Nicholls has sent an army of horses to the Josh Gifford Novices´ Handicap Chase (5.20) and perhaps his As De Mee, seventh in a strong Topham Chase, could prove to be a key title swinger on good ground over a course and distance that he’s run well over before. If the battle is still on then the Bet365 Handicap Hurdle (5.55) could be even more fun than it already is. Mullins sends three with Bellow Mome the favoured of them. A winner of his last two starts – and only three for the yard – he can improve since but will need to jump better on an entirely new surface. McKinley has become disappointing over fences, so Burgas may do best, dropped back in trip here for Bryan Cooper. A very interesting pair of contenders who the market may have ignored are Hunters Hoof and Ma Du Fou. Hunters Hoof has disappointed the last twice but one of those can be put down to the ground and off 138 he may still have more to offer. Ma Du Fou went off 7/1 for one of the most competitive races of the Aintree Festival after an impressive Huntingdon win, the form of which makes a mark of 139 look very generous. If that is forgiven his price looks to be generous and he may bounce back. The pick is Matorico, who won a well contested event at Cheltenham 10 days ago when a first time tongue tie bought the best out of him and a 4lbs rise for that looks fair enough here. He could be a different horse if that application has worked and a big field handicap over this trip should suit him just fine. Nicholls’ trio of Red Hanrahan, Alcala and Qualando have plenty going for them but watch out for the market vibes on Wilde Blue Yonder – fifth in the Supreme won by Vautour before then finishing fourth in the Mersey afterwards – who makes his comeback after 749 days off. Advice 1 pt win Voix Du Reve, 2.20 Sandown (11/4 Hills) 3 pts win Valesur Lido, 2.55 Sandown (5/6 general) 3 pts win Sprinter Sacre, 3.35 Sandown (11/10 Bet365) 1 pt each/way The Young Master, 4.10 Sandown (8/1 general; seek five places) 1 pt each/way Henri Parry Morgan, 4.10 Sandown (8/1 general) 1 pt win As De Mee, 5.20 Sandown (6/1 Coral) 1 pt each/way Matorico, 5.55 Sandown (14/1 Betway)
Happy National Day! Hope that fortune is smiling on you and your horses today, and to show appreciation for the support we’ve had during our successful season together, here’s a preview covering every horse in the big event for free. Let’s gamble responsibly, be as civil as possible (although I won’t be), and wish for all horses and jockeys back safely! For those who can’t digest the whole read, there’s a podcast preview on iTunes (top episode) https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/horses-for-courses/id1097348167?mt=2&mc_cid=ea202223fa&mc_eid=029390c1a4 & https://soundcloud.com/hfcpodcast/the-greatest-race-of-them-all. Enjoy! The Grand National, the world’s most famous steeplechase, has long given rise to legend and many famous stories. Think of Red Rum galloping into the hearts of Liverpool and the Nation. Crisp galloping for all of Australia and making the biggest of fences look like stepping stones. Aldanti beating the impossible to make himself a filmstar. Foinavon making the fence and the race his own. Devon Loch snatching defeat form the jaws of victory. Corbiere doing it for the girls. The race that never was – twice – Ginger’s comeback.
The 30 fences, four and a half miles and nearly ten minutes are ideally geared towards making legends and a second win for Many Clouds would catapult him into the history books and the Nations’s hearts. And what’s to say he can’t? Luck in running and the usual caveats apply but everything seems to be in his favour. A gutsy winner last year, he had undergone a very unorthodox preparation, winning the Hennessey and Betbright Cup in hard fought and gutsy success before finishing sixth in the Gold Cup and then coming here with 11-9. After becoming one of the youngest winners every, there has only been one single target since for him and he arrives today having had the perfect preparation. After a pipe opener in the Charlie Hall he gave 5lbs when a close second to Don Poli and was a solid second in the Betbright Chase; he warmed up by winning the Premier Chase at Kelso by 10 lengths. He is gone up only 5lbs for all those efforts on ratings and carries only 1lb more. He arrives seemingly in perfect condition, won’t care about the ground, has been there and done it before and is going to go off shorter than 9/1. Bet Victor pay six places and give 8/1, and that price is worth taking. While we’re at it, why not have last year’s second Saint Are as well? It was touch and go for Tom George’s charge to get into this year’s event but he has done by two places and he’s gone up just 3lbs for last year’s effort. Since then he’s had just the three runs, two of them clear sharpeners for this, one when making yet another successful round over these fences when seventh in the Bencher, and post weights release he went and won at Doncaster. It’s hard, all things considered, not to see a big effort with a clear round although rain staying away would help. JP McManus has won both races over the National fences and his Gallant Oscar looks a ready-made natural for the race. Progressive ever since being a winner of the Leinster National, he was closing hand over fist to take third in last year’s Ultima Handicap Chase and while he was too lowly rated to get in but bolted up at the Punchestown Festival afterwards and was coming into the Paddy Power Chase nicely when he unseated coming into the straight. A nice effort over hurdles and a staying on effort at Naas in the Leinster National should have set him up just right for this and he’s surely capable of going well. Last but never least in terms of the main portfolio is Morning Assembly.
The rising quality of the race has seen better horses to come to the fore recently and past Grade 1 winners taking a bigger and bigger hand in proceedings has become the norm – Neptune Collognes is a fine example of this. A past RSA third, he came back from two years off the track with a strong second in a conditions chase when he gave nearly a stone to the runner up and there was no shame in being beaten 11 lengths by Smashing. At the Cheltenham Festival he travelled well into the straight before fading into fourth in the Ultima Handicap Chase. That was a fine preparation for this today and perhaps the slower ground will play to his strengths for the well handicapped nine year old. Second that day was Holywell, who ran a fine race returned to the ground that suits him so well when travelling like the winner but being unable to give weight away to a well handicapped novice. He should go well, although he has to have a dry night and day and has hit a couple of fences in most of his major races. Third in the Bowl last year for Jonjo O’Neill, he still has very strong claims and a fine handicap mark. Jonjo also has Shutthefrontdoor, the winner of the Irish National in 2014 who travelled like the winner until the straight last year as favourite to send Tony McCoy off with a final winner. He travelled well, perhaps too well for his own good, and the vibes are strong for a horse with the same mark, although he will need to settle perfectly to get the trip this time around as his stamina gave way badly when push came to shove last year. Those who want a really big price must consider Vics Canvas. Under Ruby Walsh he crept into the Beet365 Gold Cup and took a fine second, before finishing a close filth in Becher when he would have been more involved over the trip today. One can cur his next two efforts from the record, and it is worth nothing that his best run over the last year has come on the soundest surface. Bet Victor pay 6 places and offer 100/1, a staggering concession for those who want a big priced flyer. That could be a serious problem for Silivinaco Conti, who loves it around here but has often appeared to be at the end of his tether over 3 miles, albeit in top company. He was impressive in the Ascot Chase but it now appears that he didn’t beat much that day and he is hard to trust. The Last Samuri, twice a winner of strong handicap chases this season, is deserving of second favouritism and has a wonderful chance. His victory at Kempton has worked out quite well, and the amount of ground he made up late in a well-run race suggested that this may well be right up his street, and he confirmed that impression when bolting up in the Grimthrope at Doncaster, coming right away on a rain softened surface from The Druids Nephew. He’s obviously a massive player.
The Druids Nephew was going as well as anything when coming down in front last year and has been aimed solely at this since, with two runs that can be forgotten simply before a nice effort behind the The Last Samuri at Doncaster when he’d have been at less of a fever pitch and would have bene less in love with the ground than the winner that day. The negatives for him that mean he doesn’t make the on the day portfolio are the rain softened ground and a 9lbs higher mark, but it would be no surprise to see him make amends. Scottish National second Gooneyella is going to have loved every drop that’s hit the course, and it’s worth remembering that he was second in a good ground Scottish National off just 3lbs lower, but the softer the better so backers should watch the rain forecasts as much as possible. He has been given every chance by the handicapper, although laying up with the van was tough for him in the Becher. Nina Carberry is a fine replacement for Ruby Walsh on Sir Des Champs but how much of his old ability the former Gold Cup second retains remains to be seen and he didn’t exactly convince in either the Lexus or the Hennessy Gold Cup. Uncello Conti has run two good races for Gordon Elliot in the Paddy Power and Thyestes, when he got what could be called a questionable ride in the latter occasion. He’s more interesting than most with Daryl Jacob on board and can be trusted to go well. A distant 10th in this in 2014 at the tender age, Kruzhlinin is now a different horse having since left Donald McCain for the Phillip Hobbs yard, as a deeply impressive return win over Le Reve at Kempton in January would indicate. It’s no surprise that he was strongly fancied to land the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival, but he jumped very poorly going onto the final circuit and he’s made bad mistakes in his previous runs here. Unioniste is very interesting. A strong staying second behind Many Clouds at Kelso, he’s now 12lbs better off for that and this is a historically sound mark; He won the December Gold Cup as a four year old off 6lbs lower and raced in last year’s race off 159. His third behind Le Reve at Sandown in February was another sound effort and he also won easily at Kelso before finishing second to Many Clouds. The more rain the better again for him. Boston Bob is very interesting. A four time Grade 1 winner, he showed great guts to win the Bobbyjo when getting the best of his stablemate On His Own; He will be a little more-well weighted, and looks as likely a stayer as anything on pretty much all the evidence we’ve seen. A sound jumper, you can do much worse. O’Faolins Boy won the RSA in 2014 and has been bought back in good style by Rebecca Curtis, trashing a useful runner up at Newbury Conditions Chase. He’s since not been quite the same, although he went swimmingly for a long way in the Gold Cup since. He’s on a fair mark but has something to prove. Triolo D’Alene has won the Topham (2013) and Hennessy (same year) but since had several wind problems and relapsed when miles behind in the Ascot Chase last time. Onenightinvienna’s earlier form this season makes a mark of 149 look very lenient indeed, although his blowout last time is unaccounted for. Inexperience is the main worry for him given that he’s had just the four chase runs but he must be seriously respected with Philipp Hobbs having sent him. The Romford Pele has gone under the radar since thrashing his opppostion in the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter two years ago, but he caught the eye when staying on soundly into seventh over 3m3f at Cheltenham in November. Dropped in trip since, he’s always looked to be going ufurther and ran a fine race in the Coral Cup over 2m5f ion fast ground at Cheltenham. This trip will be a godsend and so will a dry night although he has some form on heavy. Just a Par will stay – he won the Bet365 Gold Cup last year and took the length of the straight to do so – and has prepared for this quietly. The worry is that he was behind when he was pulled up in the Becher Chase last winter and making up the ground can get hard around here so he must lay up. Buywise ran another decent race when third in the SkyBet Chase but coming from as far back as he does can be difficult and his jumping is a huge worry. First Lieutenant is in better form than last year when a remote 16th but he’s also 5lbs higher and hasn’t won a chase against more than seven rivals. Wonderful Charm ran a great race over the Mildmay in the race before this last April, but he needs to find more from a handicapping point of view if he’s to come here. Rule The World’s Irish National second reads well in this context and he caught the eye despite being a maiden over fences. Ballynagour was second in the Bowl last year and returned in good style in the Charlie Hall but has been woefully out of form since. He was a bit better when he finished seventh at Cheltenham but he still looks high. Gilgamboa’s Ryanair fifth was a fine effort and so was his Paddy Power fourth but he has never looked like a stayer and the trip is a hug e worry. Soll burst a blood vessel when ninth last year and has been in good heart since but he’s now rated 152 and that mark could be high. On His Own has plenty of high class form but has never really appeared to like this course, falling twice in 2012 and 2013. Le Reve’s great efforts may have left him a bit high in the weights based on his fifth at Kempton in February. Hadrian’s Approach was seventh behind him but has actually got much more going for him, having taken the Bet365 Gold Cup in the last strides in 2014. He has not been on the track much since but races off the same mark and jumps better nowadays in the main too, so could easily outrun 66/1 quotes. Black Thunder now has the assistance of Sam Waley-Cohen in the plate which is a major bonus and he looked like he’d be a great national horse as a novice, but he has failed to recover that form in the last 12 months. Balleycasey was enjoying himself when being bought down in this last year but his stamina has failed him before. Pendra struggled off his revised mark when trying to follow up October’s Ascot win and now steps up another notch here. Rocky Creek was fifth in 2014 but dire last year and has since struggled badly this winter. Katenko has nor run a good race since January 2014 and doesn’t look well handicapped; Vieux Lion Rouge didn’t get home in the National Hunt Chase; Double Ross looks too high in the weights and unlikely to stay; Aachen stole a valuable Cheltenham handicap in December with a great ride and then ran Soll to half a length, but has since failed to repeat that, ad Home Farm may have a chance if repeating his 2013 Irish National effort.
Advice 2 pts each/way Many Clouds (8/1 Bet Victor) 1 pt each/way Saint Are (16/1 Bet Victor, general) 1 pt each/way Gallant Oscar (16/1 Bet Victor, 18 Hills) 1 pt each/way Morning Assembly (16/1 Bet Victor, 22/1 general, 25/1 Hills*) 1 pt each/way Vics Canvas (100/1 general) Bet Victor pay out for 6 places each/way; and most bookmakers are going 5, but Hills are going only 4. Do shop around.
Pounding headache? Hoarse throat? Random outbursts of feeling, positive or negative? Flashbacks? All of the above? You must be feeling the Cheltenham Festival hangover. The week after it all started, jump racing fans are left with two choices. Wallow in pity, or pick ourselves up and move forward to the bonanza that awaits racing fans, jump or flat.
The Irish Grand National is around the corner, and the big race itself is not far away either. But if you can’t wait until then and are keen for some gambling action, there are a wide selection of casino games available online. Even if there’s no drama on the racecourse there’s plenty happening online 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. There are plenty of games available, and you’ll be sure to find one that meets your need for exciting gambling action.
When the Aintree meeting starts on 7 April you’ll need to be prepared so here’s some preview and analysis to get you started on Day 1.
Manifesto Novices’ Chase (1.40)
A race with a very short history. Each running has been won by a runner who ran at the Cheltenham Festival and the race usually has a small field. It can often be a rematch between the those who ran in the JLT Novices Chase – although the race has twice been won by Arkle runners. Speaking this week, Graham Wylie suggested that Black Hercules, a winner of the JLT, would be seen here next. A price of 7/4 – like all in this piece, taken from Paddy Power – is fair enough based on what he did, although this track would not suit him as well as Cheltenham by any stretch of the imagination and the way that L’Ami Serge went to the front suggested that he was more speed than stamina. He’d be very interesting if sent for a rematch, along with Bristol De Mai. Three Musketeers would surely be more suited by this track, but he ran on like a horse who wanted even further at the Festival and he is hard to pin down at this moment in time. Garde La Victoire and Outlander, who fell, would be interesting too although they may go to Punchestown. Of those who missed the Festival, Tea for Two comes to mind although whether connections are thinking the same remains to be seen and it’s hard to think of too many others stepping up in trip.
Anniversary Hurdle (2.15)
The record of Triumph Hurdle winners – or the best horse from the Triumph – is mixed, 1121212713 (6-4-10) – so it’s a race to be treated with caution given how tough the Triumph can be. The flat course and likely good ground will suit Triumph winner Ivanovich Gorbatov down to the ground, but I’d be cautious about taking 6/4 on him given that he could easily go to Punchestown and in any case, Zarkandar was the last horse to do the double. The Fred Winter has begun proving itself to be a useful guide to this event and if we take it on trust that fallers Campeador and Voix Du Reve would have been involved in the finish, then we have four useful juveniles who could be involved. Diego Du Charmil would be the pick of the Nicholls pair who went 1-2, on account of the fact that he travelled the best and by quite some way. However Campeador, who travelled well but was too keen on his Irish debut at Christmas behind Apple’s Jade before fading, was going at least as well as Voix Du Reve under 11-9 before crashing out. If he were to stay on his feet this time this speed test may well bring out the best in him and he has to be given a serious amount of respect. Zubayr, far too keen in the Triumph, won the Adonis in good style at Kempton and could be one to bounce back granted he gets the pace he needs.
Betfred Bowl (2.50)
Likely to be a question of ‘how far’ for Cue Card backers with the first two from the Gold Cup going to Punchestown. The form figures for the highest placed horse from Cheltenham here are P312FF5241 (2-3-10) and 6 of these 10 were sent off favourite. It’s dependent upon who turns up as to whether Cue Card can be taken on. Don Poli was outpaced in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Smad Place was forced to go too fast. Irish Cavalier isn’t good enough and neither is Wakanda or O’Faolains Boy. The entries are likely to tell all, in showing us who is able to challenge the favourite.
Aintree Hurdle (3.25)
It is likely that Annie Power will come here, and if that is the case, then she should be too good for this field following a romp in the Champion Hurdle. This is her trip – and probably her track too, and a light season only helps her chances of not bouncing. The recent records of the highest placed finisher from the Champion Hurdle are: F2320173511, so backers probably have little to worry about. Nichols Canyon ran a fine race at Cheltenham, and won the Mersey Novices’ here last year in fine style, but it is hard to imagine him reversing the form. More interesting might be The New One, who has been crying out for this trip for a good while and could be seen to much better effect. A close second in the Aintree Hurdle behind Zarkandar in 2012, this is long overdue for him and he could be an each/way shout. Different Gravey, a sensational winner of a good handicap hurdle on his return (when tipped up as a JPFestival.com Saturday Steamer), could be the fly in the ointment, especially having missed the Festival.
Victoria Pendleton took the headlines with a fast finishing fifth on Pacha Du Polder at Cheltenham but whereas his stamina was a doubt for Cheltenham, it most definitely isn’t here. He was well beaten by On The Fringe when the two met here last year but the gap looked to have closed notable between the two when they met at Cheltenham and under different tactics he can easily reverse that form back under Will Biddick. On The Fringe has to be respected in his bid to retain his title, and he was back to his best at Cheltenham to hold off a multitude of challengers in the Foxhunters. He was even more impressive here last year, but he had very little in hand at the end of the Cheltenham race and looks very short at 6/4 to confirm superiority of less than three lengths over five horses. Marito, if taking to these fences, is a sound each/way bet at 8/1, whilst Paint The Clouds was also making ground hand over fist.
Red Rum Handicap Chase (4.40)
The Grand Annual provided the only real turnup of the week with Solar Impulse winning and the record of the winner trying to follow up here is respectable, along with those placed. Raw speed and front running tends to be the name of the game here, and Arzal does those better than most. His form from earlier in the season with Ar Mad and others looks better after the Arkle, and with a mark of 149 he Is fairly treated. Novices have taken four recent runnings of this, and the record of those highly rated is not too bad. Most winners had run within the last 35 days – 9 of the last 10 have – so look within that age range, and those with returning course form. Half of the last 10 winners had ran at the previous Aintree Festival.
Aintree Handicap Hurdle (5.15)
Five of the last 6 winners ran in March and many step up from the Coral Cup – like Tagliatelle last year – or the Pertemps, which gave the second and fourth last year. Tagietelle could go again, having finished fourth in the Pertemps this year when If In Doubt suffered a rough passage through the race and will most likely be very popular if sent here. Several from the Pertemps could make the step up plus it’s worth looking through the qualifiers, notably the ones that take place at Doncaster on SkyBet Chase day (won by Nicky Henderson’s Sugar Baron) and also Exeter on the day of their Listed Novice Hurdle (won this year by Unowhatimeanharry). If running, Sugar Baron would be of considerable interest.
With the event of 2016, the Cheltenham Festival creeping ever closer, many ante-post picks are either gold or bust. To see how my current portfolio is looking read Cheltenham Festival 2016 – Ante-post blog which was written last month. But I’m keen to look forward so without further ado, let’s see if we can find some value tips on St Patrick’s Thursday.
JLT Novices Chase
Day 3 of the Finals week at Prestbury College. Ahead of the Super Friday of exams, this seasons’ finishing novice chasers turn up to the JLT sponsored workshop to find things fuller than usual. The professor explains all….. Afternoon class. I hear from Professor Arkle that many of you have run scared of Douvan, so you have decided to go here instead for this workshop. Let us see who is present. Shaneshill? Good. Sizing John? Excellent. Go sit next to Killultagh Vic there. Bristol De Mai? Good. Is L’Ami Serge coming? “Don’t know sir!” Well we’ve no time to waste, he’ll just have to be late. Unlike its often maligned older counterpart, the JLT has quickly worked its way into the calendar as a much love finishing school for both speedy and stamina laden novice chasers, and with the imposing figure of Douvan towering over the Arkle and the RSA looking a formidable renewal, there is plenty of talent on show already. Killultagh Vic is in my personal, but sadly not public ante post book, but his remarkable achievement in getting back up at Leopardstown on Sunday makes him a worthy favourite. For all that Ruby Walsh performed a miracle in staying on and then getting him back up with one iron, he was set to win by a wide margin but for the mistake, showing something like the form that saw him beat none other than Thistlecrack at the Punchestown Festival. It looks likely that he’ll go here, following wins for Black Hercules and Roi De Francs on Saturday giving him a couple of nice options for staying chases too. Shaneshill has impressed with his engine in two starts, but overall his jumping under pressure has pleased some greatly and been a cause for concern for some others. I would personally be on the latter side, and would want to see him run again before the festival. L’Ami Serge was impressive stepped up in trip at Wetherby on the weekend, but drops back for the Kingmaker and is very much an up in the air target. NRNB, he would make the most appeal, with things having gone against him in the Supreme when behind Shaneshill and Sizing John. Sizing John was beaten silly by Douvan at Christmas, but he had looked off his game for most of that race and will surely improve on the better ground; And perhaps, the step up in trip. Wethere he runs before the festival is also open to debate, but better is surely to come from him and he remains of great interest. Bristol De Mai, well beaten by Ar Mad, may struggle to cope with some of the speeider types on hurdling form but still needs much respect here and Zabana has been supported for this race, and not without due cause as he won at Leopardstown over Christmas. A market to watch not to bet on.
Pertemps Network Final
Cheltenham Festival 2016 Tip: 1 pt each way Leave At Dawn (16/1 Coral) A proper standout here amongst the legion of McManus horses as Leave at Dawn is now qualified following a fine effort at Leopardstown in a well contested Christmas qualifier at Leopardstown. Having previously bolted up in a well contested intermediate handicap hurdle in good style at the Open meeting on the new course, he’s travelled into the reckoning comfortably at Christmas but could not cope with the heavy ground and eventually found his wheels spinning as he finished fifth. However, that effort entitled him to huge credit given that of his three wins from just 11 starts (just one at this trip), only one had come on soft or worse and if things do dry up, he must have a major chance. If In Doubt, at winner on Boxing Day at Wincanton, is worthy of respect too and looks the right favourite at this stage, although Missed Approach and Box Office catch the eye and Forthefunofit is another green and gold contender. he Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Haydock is also a good pointer, with three out of the last six winners having finished in the top five in that race prior to coming to Cheltenham, and maybe on decent ground, Batavir might put his best foot forward. When doing so, he has considerable talent, enough to take advantage.
If Vatour runs, he should win and win easily. Whether he does so is not a call to make now, with a range of factors potentially diverting him one way or the other. Smad Place would be an each/way bet to nothing if being sent from the front here, with him making more appeal than Al Ferof being ridden prominently, although he too would deserve respect; Previous effort from Dan Skelton’s horse would need improving on. Many here look likely not to run; Don Cossack will go to the Gold Cup and Valesur Lido, disappointing in the King George, must go further rather than backwards, and Vroum Vroum Mag looks very likely to stay over hurdles too. Simonsig is yet to prove himself fully back and surely goes to the Champion Chase. Second last season, Ma Filleule has disappointed this year and did not run to the level of last year’s form when winning a Mares’ chase at Doncaster. The interesting one is Road To Riches, third in the Gold Cup last year when always on the heel of Coneygree on ground softer than he would have wanted. With two prime Gold Cup contenders, they could easily send him here and his win in the Clonmel Oil Chase showed an awful lot of speed for one so robust when staying. His NRNB price is short enough given that he may take on Vautour. Sound Investment could have a good chance if the race cuts up, being rated 162 and now on something like the ground he wants to race on following fine efforts in handicaps. Vibrato Valtat, from the same stable, could be given a chance on the very best of his form as a novice, although at Aintree last year he did not run to standard that would have suggested he could win this and Saturday’s run in the Clarence House will tell us more. With the race potentially cutting up majorly, this could be within the reach of the uber progressive handicappers Village Vic and Champagne West. Both would be upped markedly in class (and on badly worse terms with Sound Investment) but the best is surely yet to come from both of them, given that Champagne West was making his comeback in the December Gold Cup and that Village Vic, who has won on the heaviest ground Cheltenham are likely to race on all year and had previously won twice on good ground too. Big runs from both wouldn’t surprise. No tip.
Already Advised: 1 pt each/way Thistlecrack 10/1 (pictured above) & 1 pt each/way Cole Harden 10/1 The best of my previous Cheltenham 2016 ante-post tips. A deeply impressive winner of the Long Walk Hurdle, to follow on from his win in the Long Distance Hurdle, it would seem that the only thing that stands between him and victory for some is the track. His one bad run there came early in his development, and the Cleeve should tell much more, but he has a fine chance. The arrival of Camping Ground on the scene has spiced things up, and the further he went the better he looked in the Relkeel, although on good ground it would be interesting to see how he copes given that many he was facing floundered on soft in the Relkeel. One of those is Cole Harden, who is yet to find his ground, but remains value on a dry surface. Annie Power doesn’t look likely to go but we’ll know a lot more about the claims of Vroum Vroum Mag on Saturday, when she faces a decent field including four mares rated in excess of 140 in the Fairfield Hurdle. Alpha Des Obeaux was locked in a duel to the death with Thistlecrack when falling at Aintree, and on better ground, could be overpriced, but some have cottoned onto that fact now. He runs in the Galmoy Hurdle, along with Albert Bartlett winner Martello Tower, and that should tell us more about them with Martello Tower fit although he must give a penalty of 7lbs. Prince of Scars beat him at Christmas, staying on powerfully to win easily. Whether he could do that on better ground remains to be seen however. Aux Ptis Soins has huge potentially but has had the worst possible season leading upto this and the same is true of Saphir Du Rheu. The New One doesn’t look a likely runner, but would be one of interest. Briar Hill (runs in the Galmoy) has become disappointing and Kilcooley hasn’t won on good ground. Windsor Park would be feared if going here, and some have rumoured that it will be the case. However his run in the Ryanair Hurdle was consuming and he now doesn’t have another chance to run. If he runs on the day, he looks a fine each/way bet. No further tips.
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate
The following three races are all worth following closely for those trying to get a start on things here; the Williamhill.com Handicap Chase at Kempton in January has been a good trial with eight of the last ten winners taking this path before going on to the Festival, The Murphy Group Chase at Cheltenham on trials day and the Lord Gyllene Chase at Uttoxeter. However if one of Village Vic or Champagne West goes here there must be a good chance one or both outclasses this field over a course and distance over which they are very comfortable. Many quoted are more exposed than one would want, but I can’t help but give Buywise another chance if he went there given the potential defectors.
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
Knowing who turns up is half the battle here for what is an on the day race. Eight of the last ten winners were ridden by non-claiming amateurs, with the yards of David Pipe, Ferdy Murphy and Donald McCain having a good record in this. It’s usually a stout stayer that ends up winning this, and The Job Is Right looks to have an ideal profile. A veteran of handicap chases with big fields, he contested the four miler last season and runs in the Thyestes tomorrow. If diverted to this, he may break the barren record of the Irish here. The third last year, Buddy Bolero, could be another likely contender if aimed at this straight away.
Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
The form of the one run (and win) of Limini makes her a worthy favourite. Rici Ricci’s charge beat four subsequent winners with plenty in hand on her debut and if she improves more in terms of jumping then she has plenty going for her. But at 3/1, the secret is out and she wouldn’t be much shorter in the week of the race, or even on the day, without a run. The Mullins’ yard has a grip on this race like no other; Not even the Champion Hurdle, with Listen Dear and Karalee for the Supreme Racing and Ricci camps, and those two may tempt each/way players given their impressive hurdling wins although it’s to be noted that only the Supreme two have run in this season proper. The Organist, another wide margin winner of late, might make the final field. For more info on race details click the link below. Cheltenham Festival 2016 race schedule and times plus ticket information
To give you the flavour of the type of content our Community Members can access, I’m making today’s preview of Punchestown from Will Kedjanyi available to all. Enjoy! JP
After a successful first day, with a cracking ride from Danny Mullins helping Felix Yonger get over the line, we approach day 2 of Punchestown in the driving seat with a card that has considerably more betting shape. At the time of writing things are dry over County Kildare, with suits the fancies for tomorrow’s racing all proven on a sound surface.
I was very keen on Identity Theft being well overpriced at Fairyhouse when he attempted to bounce back from a dreadful showing in the Delotitte when obvious wrong, and he ran a fine race before being readily outsped by Sempre Medici after the last. The step back upto today’s trip, over which he won his maiden in such taking style, should be right up his street and if improving for his first run for two months, then he should take the beating in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle (4.25).
Willie Mullins already has three Grade 1 winners to his name and will be much fancied to make it four with Shaneshill in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle (4.55). The Supreme second coasted home when taking advantage of a weak Grade 2 at Fairyhouse, and is now being stepped upto 3 miles for the first time. He holds a strong chance, but is unproven at the trip and looked to be outstayed, beaten fair and square, when meeting No More Heroes in December at Navan. Gordon Elliott’s charge makes more appeal of the two at the prices, with plenty of time to recover from what would have been a hard race at the Festival in the Albert Bartlett when third to Martello Tower. He should go well, but the value in the race may well be Thistlecrack, who looked a different horse for three miles when landing the Sefton at Aintree last time and could possibly have more improvement in him still.
He was going tooth and nail before being left infront by Alpha Des Obeaux at the least, and while the result was not confirmed by any stretch of the imagination, the distance he had between him and the solid yardstick Vyta du Roc helps to underline the form of what had looks at least an upto standard renewal. On just his second start over this trip, he is well worth chancing for a big run.
Cheltenham Festival winner Killtuagh Vic has already done us a fine service by winning the Martin Pipe, and he should thrive at this new trip, so has to be respected here with his third behind Outlander at Leopardstown looking excellent after Martello Tower’s Albert Bartlett victory. Fletchers Flyer was just beaten by Definitely Red when last seen in February, but lost no cast in that defeat and is one of a few outsiders who can get in the shakeup here today.
The Bibby Services Punchestown Gold Cup (5.30) is a fascinating and well upto strength renewal, with the first two from the Cheltenham Gold Cup meeting in a rematch and facing one of the most exciting chasers around.
Willie Mullins Djakadam, a fine second at Cheltenham, holds an obvious form chance of taking the big prize today, but may find that conditions on this occasions suit Gold Cup third Road to Riches more, and the Noel Meade horse can turn the form around today.
At Cheltenham the two were the only horses within hailing distance, and Road to Riches, having been in the firing line all the way round, just folded late up the hill as Djakadam – held out of the firing line – stayed on late to grab the runner up spot. The two should be closely matched again today, but around this sharper track, on better ground, and crucially, over 1 furlong less, it’s not impossible that Road to Riches can turn the tables today.
The big form threat is Don Cossack, who was almost unbelievably impressive when landing the Melling Chase at Aintree, and compensating for his Ryanair third by beating Cue Card to the tune of 26 lengths. He looked like a horse that would stay then – and if doing so today, will be a major player.
However the one horse I just can’t be leaving is Ballynagour, who came so close to landing us a massive pot at Aintree when beaten just a head by Silvinaco Conti in the Aintree Bowl. He may well have won there if he’d met the cross fence correctly, and the form looks top class here.
Some will put forward the argument that he is best fresh, but he ran fine races at Cheltenham, Aintree and then here last year and there should be no reason that he can’t go at least as well again. Take the 9/1 with Bet365, who pay ¼ the odds for three places each/way.
In the Guinness Handicap Chase (6.40), if the ground stays good, then there’s nothing to stop a big run from Rathlin, who ran a fine race in the Topham at Aintree last time. That was his first run on good ground since finishing a creditable fifth in the Melling Chase last year at Aintree, and he now gets his favoured conditions again, effectively now 5lbs lower thanks to Ger Fox’s claim in the saddle compared to last time.
Gigginstown’s first colours are carried by Bright New Dawn, who may get his favoured conditions as well regarding ground and who is dangerously well treated based on form from just earlier this season.
1 pt win Identity Theft, 4.25 Punchestown (2/1 general)
1 pt each/way Thistlecrack, 4.55 Punchestown (7/1 Bet365)
1 pt win Road to Riches, 5.30 Punchestown (4/1 general)
1 pt each/way Ballynagour, 5.30 Punchestown (9/1 Bet365)
1 pt each/way Rathlin, 6.40 Punchestown (11/1 general)
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Football doesn’t have it. Rugby Union doesn’t have it. Neither does Rugby League. F1 doesn’t have it. Cycling misses out. Athletics misses out too, the last time I checked. Fans of most sports usually will have to deal with the dreaded time of year that their beloved pastime goes away, usually for at least a month or two. Some fans are saved by the fact they can simply switch hemispheres; others can alternate between international and club seasons, even if they aren’t quite the same (ask England fans). Fans of racing need not face this dilemma, every year, or ever. The lull from the Cheltenham Festival usually brings – understandably – a hangover for racing fans as we recover, for better or worse, from the events of that hallowed week in March. However, just two weeks afterwards we hit a golden period for fans of either code looking for their fix. On Satruday, for many – the Flat in England returned with the Lincoln and Spring Mile, while those who want an international fix and flavour enjoyed the Dubai World Cup card at Meydan. The Irish, not to be outdone, have a similar card at the Curragh on Sunday to kick of proceedings. Jumping fans may be alienated for a week but need not despair, as next weekend we have the Irish Grand National Festival over two days, and quick on it’s heels we have the Grand National meeting itself at Aintree. There’s then competitive meetings at Newmarket and the Curragh before the week-long bonanza that is Punchestown – and on the final Saturday of Punchestown we have the Guineas. Meanwhile there are trials for the Guineas in between, the return of many favourites, and for those who like a foreign flavour to their action, the rapidly advancing Kentucky Derby trail. The return of the Flat and National Hunt seasons brings with it plenty of debate about which season is better. One of the mainstays of that argument will be the length of time that we get to see our heroes stick around for – an argument easily won by the Jumps – although those who are looking for a season full of highlights are surely better served by the level. However, the true joy surely comes in having your cake and eating it at a time of year that is arguably more exciting and entertaining than any other for fans of both codes with the stars of the Jumps running alongside the most promising horses the Flat has to offer. The Jumps has more established top class stars that we all love each season, while we can enjoy speed and consistent top class racing on the Flat. While each has their strengths, it’s the joy of having both that makes this sport great.