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Between March 2010 and April 2017, this blog recommended wagers on 520 individual races on Jump Racing in the UK, resulting in a PROFIT of £1,525.39 on cumulative stakes of £5,726 - this is equivalent to a Return On Investment of 26.60%.


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Saturday 31 December 2022

Review of the Kempton/Leopardstown graded races

Christmas is over, it's a New Year from Sunday, and we have to start focusing on the Cheltenham Festival in March, which is less that 80 days away. We have a lot of graded races, and top handicaps, to weigh-up and decide on whether they have a bearing or not on the Festival graded races.  

Looking at the Champion Hurdle first, as that race looks the simplest to solve, I'm sure we all wish that we'd put the mortgage on CONSTITUTION HILL @ 2/1 for this race last March (see my blog on 27Mar). The Irish challenge from trainer Willie Mullins comes from STATE MAN who won on 29Dec, and possibly Vauban. Referring again to my 27Mar blog, I wrote that State Man could be a potential Champion Hurdler in 2023 (but I don't have a record of his odds at the time). I'm surprised that Vauban ran this week as I think he will be a better horse in the 2023-24 season, but perhaps Mullins wants a back-up plan should State Man not be able to run at Cheltenham. As for Honeysuckle, I think she's had her day in the sun. However, she may represent the only value left in the betting in the w/o the fav market for which she's 7/2 as - on her best form and with the mares' allowance - she could well be 2nd.

Now the QMCC, and on my ratings this season there's not much between ENERGUMENE and EDWARDSTONE. With Shishkin unlikely to try 2-miles again, and (despite a good win at Leopardstown) Blue Lord is yet to top 160 on my ratings (putting him over 10lb below my top-rated), there is scope for a rank outsider to take 3rd place. It won't be Greanteen who is best going right-handed, and (after a poor run behind Blue Lord) we won't see Chancun Pour Soi at Cheltenham again, so for me NUBE NEGRA @ 33/1 fits the bill. He never runs a poor race at Cheltenham, and was 2nd in the QMCC in 2021 (when going off at 11/1), so as long as the ground isn't soft he looks a great eachway wager. Sure, he was well behind Editeur De Gite at Kempton on 27Dec (Edwardstone falling mid-race), and maybe I'm clutching at straws, but I think he's much better suited going left-handed. Editeur De Gite is an interesting horse as he's clearly a late improver, and if he could repeat this effort at the Festival he will be very interesting there, whatever race he goes for.

The Ryanair Chase has been dominated by Willie Mullins and Allaho for the past few seasons, and the last time we saw Allaho he looked better than ever, and he will only be a 9yo come March.  It will be interesting if Shishkin goes for this race as it looks perfect for him at this time, and odds of 8/1 are worth a small wager as if he does line-up for this he will likely go off at 3/1. There wasn't a performance over the last week that puts anything into contention, as the Irish trained Conflated won a weak Grade 1 - pretty much as he liked - and he is one for the minor places (along with Fakir D'oudairies: and  both are at 12/1) if Shishkin misses the race. 

The betting for the Stayers' Hurdle has been given a shuffle due to the result of the Christmas Hurdle won by HOME BY  THE LEE. There's no doubt HBTL has improved a lot since stepping-up to 3-miles, but he was comprehensively beaten in the Stayers' last March when it was won for the 2nd-time by FLOORING PORTER. I'm not sure HBTL is a better horse now, but he is being ridden with more confidence. Flooring Porter loves Cheltenham, and he went into the race last year without a win in 12 months and it's likely he's going to do the same now. Odds of 8/1 (Bet365) look generous, and he looks a banker for eachway doubles and trebles, as he may well find one to good, but not three. I certainly can't see Klassical Dream improving on last years' 5th place; and we've not seen Blazing Khal since December 2021. Paisley Park retains his form, and is a consistent performer, but he's yet to better Flooring Porter and age is not on his side. After those, you are scrabbling around amongst non-proven stayers and so-called "improvers".  

Finally, we have the Gold Cup with the betting dominated by Galopin Des Champs. There's no doubt that GDC is a top-class horse, but the Gold Cup trip of 3m2f can find out even the best of horses.  Given that he won a Grade 1 novice hurdle over 3-mile beating proven stayers Gentlemansgame, Stattler and Vanillier, then it's likely he will stay the Gold Cup trip. There are problems with A Plus Tard who won the race last year with one of the best performances of the last 20 years, and I can't see him running in the race. For me, the competition for the race will come from L'Homme Presse, Protektorat and Bravemansgame, and possibly Noble Yeats. If STATTLER runs well on 1st Jan at Tramore, a race won by dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo for the past 4 seasons, then he could well go off the 2nd fav - he's currently 16/1 for the GC and having won the NH Chase over 3m6f last March at the Festival we know the horse handles the course and stays the trip.

I'm putting the following into eachway doubles and trebles. Why eachway and not win only? These selections "should" be in the 1st-3 of their respective races, but are either not likely to win (eg: Nube Negra, and Conflated) or could win if luck goes their way.
In the QMCC: Nube Negra
Ryanair: Shiskin & Conflated 
Stayers' Hurdle: Flooring Porter
Gold Cup: Stattler

I have not lost faith in FLOORING PORTER for the Stayers' Hurdle, as he's good enough and young enough to go for a 3rd win in the race.  The Gold Cup looks like it could be a proper gambling race, the betting is wide open and as I'm happy to oppose Galopin Des Champs at the current odds, I'm examining the form to settle on one that will be my significant wager. 

Sunday 4 December 2022

Review of Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th December

What a great day of racing, but (on the downside) an abysmal performance by myself on the tipping front. Maybe I'm not putting enough research into the races, I trying to maintain the methods that have worked well for the last 10 years, but something isn't gelling. So, I'm going to give things a rest and just review the races for a few weeks, and return with my usual Boxing Day "Yankee" on the 26th December.

The jumping performance of novice chaser JONBON was exemplary, so great leaps at speed. I only noticed hesitancy once, and given he is a novice chaser he's allowed a mistake or two while learning his trade.  Boothill performed valiantly to keep the race alive, and also provide a decent yardstick as he won at Ascot LTO and came into this with a rating of OR147.  As he was clearly outclassed and Jonbon almost certainly could have won by further, you have to think Jonbon is capable of 160+  which puts him on a par with Edwardstone (who won the same race as a novice chaser, and won the Tingle Creek later on the card).

The Tingle Creek had a great field with every horse rated OR160+, and what a performance from EDWARDSTONE.  He seems to fiddle a few of his fences, but what an engine! Over the last half-mile there was only one horse in it. So how good was the performance? To be fair, the ground (good-to-soft) was in the winners' favour as the best 3 speed ratings for Greaneteen are on "Good" ground, as such I don't think he was within 10lb of his OR171 rating. If you mark Greanteen at 160, that puts Edwardstone at 171 which makes him a definite challenger for Energumene.  Shiskin? I did write on the blog that he may need a run or two to get back to his best, but talk now is of going to 3 miles with him, and I did write that on my blog back in September!

At Aintree, the Grade 2 "Many Clouds" Chase saw Grand National winner Noble Yeats pitched against one of last season's leading novices: Ahoy Senor. It was no contest - NOBLE YEATS put this race to bed with a great turn of foot coming to the final fence and, with stamina not in doubt, he ran out an easy winner. It was 160+ by Noble Yeats and he could well be in the Cheltenham Gold Cup next March as a leading contender. What about Ahoy Senor? Starting with his rating for this performance, I rate his last 6 races 155 / 119 / 155 / 155 / 156 / 150. His "Charlie Hall" run was terrible, but other than that he's been super consistent - but he's not a 160+ chaser.

At Chepstow, FARINET has been threatening a run like that for some time, although it is difficult to assess just how good it was as the field were spread-eagled. He could well follow-up in another 3-mile handicap chase, as he shouldn't go up more than 7lb for this win. 

Fairyhouse on Sunday provided some great racing, including the Grade 1 "Hatton's Grace" hurdle over 2m3f being contested by Honeysuckle, who has previously won this race in 2020 and 2021. Here are my ratings of Honeysuckle since winning this in Nov-2020 - apologies for the screenshot quality.

This will upset some people, but the highest rating I've given her is 161 for winning the 2021 Champion Hurdle: generally I reckon she's about 155-158. She has been winning top-class hurdle ratings off the back of her mares' allowance, combined with the reality that the 2-mile hurdlers of recent years have been a poor bunch.  By my assessment, Honeysuckle will not only have to be at her best next March to win a Champion Hurdle with Constitution Hill running in, but she's going to have to find about 7lb (probably 10lb) of improvement on that. To put in context, she's going to have to run 20lb better than she did on Sunday.   


Friday 2 December 2022

Saturday 3rd December - Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown

Blog updated Saturday morning, comments in blue.
Last week was another Saturday when the selection didn't win but was placed - we've hit the post a number of times this season without scoring. We have another top weekend of racing with the Tingle Creek meeting at Sandown, the Becher Chase at Aintree; as well as great support from Chepstow with the Welsh National Trial, and Wetherby putting on a solid meeting with a couple of Class 3 handicaps. And we also have the World Cup, with England playing Senegal on Sunday evening - and that is a game that could go either way, as Senegal are no pushover. 

At Sandown last year, Nicky Henderson introduced the unraced Constitution Hill in the opener, and this year he sends the unraced Immortal – could be worth a watch.  Over the day, the Henderson horses are going to be the ones to watch, with Jonbon in the “Henry VIII” Grade 2 novice chase, and then Shishkin in the Tingle Creek. I’m sure Henderson won’t send Shishkin if he thinks he’s not ready, but it took the great horse Sprinter Sacre a few runs before he returned to his best, and it may be worth opposing him.  

Last season I found the inner of the London National at Sandown, and this years' race looks a real poser. I'm not sure about the fav Revels Hill: he's won at 3m4f but it looked a weak race to me, and I think he still has to prove himself at this sort of trip. However, having him as the 2/1 fav really opens up the betting and provides an opportunity for a long-odds eachway wager: and one that fits the bill is Almazhar Garde. Still only a 7yo, he's had 18 chase runs, winning 4 times, and he's a strong stayer who likes to race prominently. The form that I'm drawn to is when 2nd at Catterick over 3m6f in Jan22 off OR137. There's plenty of 18/1 and 4-places (5th odds) available, and while he may not win this (he lacks pace at the business end) he could be worth a place-only wager on the exchanges. 

At Aintree, the Grade 2 “Many Clouds” Chase over 3m1f looks a tight affair on Official Ratings with only 4lbs separating the highest rated Ahoy Senor (OR161) from the lowest Sounds Russian (OR157). If the weights were level, I’d have no hesitation in opting for Chantry House: a C&D winner more that proven at this level and higher. However, he’s giving 2lb to Grand National winner Noble Yeats (who is no pushover) and 6lb to the improving Sounds Russian who won LTO at Kelso on 22-Oct. The benefit of already having a run swings it for me. The field assembled for the Becher Chase handicap over 3m2f would not disgrace the Grand National; it looks a cracker.
My own ratings are:
Chantry House     155      plus 0lb = 155
Noble Yeats         149 (p) plus 2lb = 151
Sam Brown         159       plus 2lb = 161
Ahoy Senor        155        plus 3lb = 158
Dashel Drasher   159       plus 6lb = 165
Sounds Russian   149 (p) plus 6lb = 155
Will Dashel Drasher stay the 3m1f trip? It is doubtful as all the others are guaranteed to stay the trip and stamina will be tested. Will the ground be soft enough for Sam Brown to show his best?  In the “Charlie Hall”, Ahoy Senor ran a stinker and may bounce-back, or he may not; for me he isn't reliable enough.  Chantry House ticks a lot of boxes, and he's 11/2 with Bet365, Bet Victor and William Hill.  I will be back again in the morning with an update, in the meantime take advantage of what looks great value on Chantry House. 

The Welsh Grand National Trial Chase at Chepstow may only have 11 runners, but it looks a tough handicap to solve. Top-weight with 12st is Secret Investor who was last seen winning the Grade 2 "Denman" Chase at Newbury beating top-class stablemate Clan Des Obeaux in the process.  That was 650 days ago and he will have to be near Gold Cup class to win today. I like Caribean Boy but I think his 287-day absence is also a negative. Elegant Escape has had a recent run, and he's capable of a good run off OR142, he's an eachway chance at 16/1. Secret Reprieve who won this 2 years ago as a 6yo off OR130, and went on to win the Welsh National off OR134, is on a journey of "recovery" (he's only run 3 times since Winning the Welsh Nat in Jan2021) and has a way to go yet.  The race fav is Wayfinder who has won his last 3 races over C&D, but this race is different gravy to what he's been in.  The one that interests me is Southfield Harvest who sneaks into the race with just 10st2lb and a 5lb claimer (so he could have just 9st11lb). I'm thinking Paul Nicholls is running Secret Investor with 12st so that Southfield Harvest has this low weight; and there's plenty of 5/1 about.

Aintree 1:30pm CHANTRY HOUSE - £10 win @ 11/2 (advised on Friday evening)
Chepstow 1:37pm SOUTHFIELD HARVEST - £5 win @ 5/1

Friday 25 November 2022

Saturday 26th November - "Hennessey" Gold Cup at Newbury

Blog updated on Saturday morning - updates in blue.
It may have a new name, but jumps fans know it by only one, The Hennessey.  There's been a bit of talk that the race isn't what it was, and it may be that it's 6 years since a proper "Gold Cup" horse - in the form of Native River - has run in the race, but it's still a competitive handicap.  Personally, despite having a decent Gold Cup record (the Weekender says 10 winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup ran in this race on their way to the big one), this isn't a race that I would naturally look to as a stepping-stone to winning a Gold Cup. Why, because it's too close to Christmas and effectively rules out a run in either the "King George" at Kempton, or the Savills Chase in Ireland. ones

Being a race with a long history, there are lots of statistics. As with all statistical trends on horseracing, the first point of call has to be the strongest: stick with lightly raced chasers, as 11 of the last 17 winners had fewer than 10 chase runs, and only 1 of the last 27 winners had run more than 15 chase runs (Gingembre in 2002). If you take out the anomaly of 10yo Sizing Tennessee, only 1 horse older than 8yo has won this race since the 9yo Teeton Mill in 1998 - step forward Denman. There's no Denman in this race, and so I am content to put a line through Lostintranslation, Remastered, Potterman, and Diablo De Rouhet. Back on 30th October, I had an early look at this race for some antepost value, and came up with 3 horses: 2 are not running (Bravemansgame, and Fantastikas) but Fiddlerontheroof - advised at 16/1 - is, and his hurdle run on 7th November will have set him up for this. He was unlucky to be beaten in this race last year, and I think he has every chance of winning. I don't think the fav Le Milos, will have ground soft enough, and his odds are too short to suggest value. There's never been a 5yo winner of the race although (to be fair) very few have tried.  Even so, I can't have Busselton running off OR149 as despite winning LTO in the Kerry National, he's not shown form suggesting he can win off this rating.

There's 4 of the 1st-5 from the Ultima Handicap Chase running (who said this race isn't what it once was?) and all 4 - Corach Rambler, Gericault Roque, Oscar Elite, and Our Power - have a great chance, it is difficult to split them, but I favour Corach Rambler to do the best. Trainer Paul Nicholls runs many horses in this race, but his last winner was Denman; however, he could have another with Threeunderthrufive who ticks a lot of boxes. Probably outclassed at Cheltenham, he looks capable of a bold show being a prominent runner. The way I look at the race, the likely winner is either Fiddlerontheroof or Threeunderthrufive, both are available at 10/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5). I didn't post odds on Friday evening, as I was hoping for a better market on the day. Skybet offer 6-places and 10/1 on Threeunderthrufive, and 11/1 on Fiddlerontheroof. This does look a more competitive race than usual and any one of the six named in this paragraph could win, so (if betting) keep stakes small. Personally, I'm relying on my surviving antepost wager at 16/1 on Fiddlerontheroof.

There are some great races on today, and the Class 2 handicap chase at 1:20pm over 2m6f & 93yds looks a great race to have a wager in. I'm not convinced Zanza is returning to his form of 2021, whereas Killer Kane should come on for his recent run and this trip being just short of 3-miles is right for him. The trip is also perfect for C&D winner Dublin Four, but he's had plenty of runs and may not have more improvement to come. On the upgrade is LTO winner Java Point (also a C&D winner) who I like a lot. For me, it's between Java Point and the fav Demachine, who also won LTO and was strongly fancied for the "Gold Cup" on this card last season, but weakened from 2-out to finish 5th to Cloudy Glen. Clearly the trip stretched him, and he bounced-back at Uttoxeter in May over 2m4f, but he suffers from having to carry 12st in this race. I think odds of 17/2 about JAVA POINT look fair value, and he's my selection in this race.

There's an interesting 3-mile Class 3 handicap chase at Bangor at 1:28pm and it may pay to wager on Keep Wondering who has 10lb claimer Elizabeth Gale riding, and she's 2 wins from 3 rides this season. Keep Wondering should stay this trip and his recent hurdle run over 2m7f should have him fit for this, and trainer has a 22% strike-rate with chasers at Bangor. Odds of 4/1 are not great though, and it may pay to hang on and keep an eye on the betting.

At Newcastle, the feature "Rehearsal" Chase over 2m7f & 91 yards is the last on the card at 3:25pm, and we see the return of top-class novice chaser L'Homme Presse. Trainer Venetia Williams has had 4 wins in the past week, and there will be a lot of confidence about this horse today, as he could develop into a Cheltenham Gold Cup candidate this season. Last years' winner Aye Right will make sure this is a proper stamina test, but he wont be winning today. There are a few in this who are trying the 3-mile trip for the first time, and they are difficult to assess. The odd-one-out is Into Overdrive, he's won his last 4 chase races and gone from OR112 to OR138 today, and unexpectedly won his seasonal debut over 2m3f last month.  It's never easy to assess form from the Northern tracks, but he's in the deep end here. The really interesting one is Happygolucky: he looked a decent chaser in the making in 2020-21, but has been off the track since winning at Aintree off OR149, demonstrating how unlucky he was not to win at the Cheltenham Festival. If he's fit and ready, he could be worth a punt today at odds of 15/2, but I really cannot see him winning unless he comes back just as good as when we last saw him run. 

My one advised selection today is: 
Newbury 1:20pm JAVA POINT - £5.00 eachway @ 17/2 
(generally available, 5th odds a place 1,2,3)

Saturday 19 November 2022

Saturday 19th November - Betfair Chase at Haydock

It's a big day for Haydock racecourse, but the weather hasn't been kind and the races on the soft ground there are likely to be gruelling. Before heading into today's races, a quick look at last weeks blog: and we were close with the main selection Il Ridoto, who looked poised to take the feature race of the day as they leaders approached 2-out, but although staying-on to be 4th he had nothing left in the tank. He is only a 5yo and there will be opportunities ahead for him.  Although not a selection (the odds available were below my 9/4 threshold for selections on the blog), there was plenty of confidence on Tea For Three at Uttoxeter, who travelled well and found plenty to win well.

The feature race today is the 3m1f & 125yds (Grade 1) Betfair Chase at Haydock. The soft ground has reduced the field to just 5 runners, however the Gold Cup winner - and winner of this race last season - A Plus Tard returns, and looks near impossible to beat today. There's no certainties in horseracing, but it may pay to have "straight forecast" wager on the race to put the 1st-2 in the right order. What could come 2nd? On their best recent form, my rating suggests that there is little to split the other 4 runners in the race. Bristol De Mai is a 3-time winner of the Betfair Chase, but he pulled-up last year and I can't see him being 2nd unless the other 3 run exceptionally poorly. Frodon was a mighty winner with top-weight just 14-days ago, but he won't be able to bully Bristol De Mai who also likes to lead, and if things don't fall his way he tends to lose interest. He may throw in the towel with half-a-mile to go. Protektorat won a poor Grade 2 over 3m1f at Aintree last December, but was beaten before the final fence in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, and plodded on to be 3rd - I'm not convinced he's a true 3-mile-plus chaser. Remember, he couldn't beat the current OR147 chaser Empire Steel over 3-mile when conceding him just 4lb.  And that leaves Eldorado Allen, who was a good 2nd in the "Charlie Hall" over 3-mile at Wetherby, and also beat top stayer Royale Pagaille over 3-mile at Newbury. He comes here race-fit, in good form and the ground isn't an issue - I can't see him winning, but he can be 2nd

What other races are worthy of interest today? Earlier on the Haydock card at 12:40pm there a Class 3 3m4f handicap chase, and stamina is really going to be needed in this race. One that stands out for me on form and on the odds, is Innisfree Lad: he ran a great race 20-days ago to be 2nd to improving Houston Texas (runs in Haydock 3:35pm) and was not beaten far when 3rd in the 4-mile "Eider" at Newcastle in February. He ran off OR135 that day, now he's on OR129 and with stamina no problem he looks a value eachway wager at 14/1 (Skybet are 5th odds 4-places on this race). The market leaders Wouldyoubewell and No Cruise Yet are priced on potential and not form (both only beat a couple of horse's LTO).

The card at Ascot is disappointing; nothing wrong with the races on offer but with 6 or fewer runners in the 1st-5 races on the card, betting opportunities are few - I just don't like betting at short odds, there is so little reward for the risk.  The only race that's interesting is the extended 2-mile (Class 2) handicap chase at 3:15pm. A few of these met here at Ascot 3-weeks over this trip, and perhaps the winner that day - Thyme White - can follow up again. However, he meets Frero Banbou (who was 2nd) on 7lb worse terms, and Frero Banbou looked sure to improve for the race. The 7yo Boothill currently 3/1, won LTO but that was only his 2nd chase, and he's going to be mixing with some solid handicappers here. The Irish raider So Scottish is also a novice with 2 wins from 2 chase runs and looks well handicapped on OR135, but the same applies to him as Boothill. With ground likely to be too soft for top-weight Third Time Lucki, for me the value is with Frero Banbou who is 11/2 with Bet365 (5th odds a place 1,2,3).

Haydock 12:40pm INNISFREE LAD - £2.50 eachway @ 14/1 (Skybet 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4)
Ascot 3:15pm FRERO BANBOU - £2.50 eachway @ 11/2 (Bet365 5th odds a place 1,2,3)
£2.50 Eachway double with Bet365 (5th odds a place 1,2,3 both races) 

Haydock 3:00pm - Straight Forecast £5 staked
1: A Plus Tard
to beat
3: Eldorado Allen

Total staked = £20

Friday 11 November 2022

Saturday 12th November - Paddy Power Handicap Chase

New comments added this morning (Saturday) are in blue.

A quick recap on last Saturday.  The early selection Ashtown Lad was well supported and followers of the blog had the value at 8/1, but he just wasn't good enough - however, he was 3rd so the advised eachway wager was without without loss.  Not so with Senior Citizen who never looked happy throughout the race, and the writing was on the wall not long after they started. He's always best fresh, so I'm not expecting having any further wagers on him this season after that poor effort.  We very nearly pulled-off a good win with the final selection Lord Accord, who ran an absolute cracker to be the only rival to push the win, the outstanding Frodon.  I'd rate Lord Accord a bit higher for this effort, and he looks to be a fast improving horse. 

The Cheltenham meeting has the Paddy Power Handicap Chase as the feature race, and the meeting is one of the best of the jumps season. It opens with the Triumph Hurdle Trial and the winner of this race is usually one of the better juvenile hurdlers, so get your notebooks out. I'm probably going to take a look at this race on Saturday morning (I'm writing this on Friday afternoon), so if you are reading this on Friday, please take another look on Saturday after 11am for any updates. The opener at Cheltenham at 12:35pm looks tricky to fathom.  I'm not that taken by French imports having their UK debut, so odds of 13/8 about Blueking D'Oroux are very skinny.  The interesting ones in my opinion are the next couple in the betting: Scriptwriter @ 4/1 and Mr Freedom @ 11/2.  Scriptwriter was near Group-class on the flat, and he's in good hands with Milton Harris.  Mr Freedom cost just £800 at the sales - you struggle to find a new sofa at that price -  yet he's looking very decent over hurdles for Sheena West.  A trainer local to Brighton, Sheena West mainly sends horses to Fontwell and Plumpton, so if she goes elsewhere it's worth taking note.  Mr Freedom will not be going to Cheltenham for a jolly.  I shall be having a small (personal) wager on Mr Freedom, bit I cannot advise a punt on this race. 

The amateur riders handicap chase over 3m1f at 1:10pm looks interesting.  A lot of these riders wont be capable of riding a winner here, and those who still have a claim are probably not up to it. The capable Gina Andrews has jumped off Anightinlambourn and onto Bobhopenohope and I expect that pair will try to make all. However, I'm liking the look of BRAVE WAY who has won his last couple of races, stays the trip and is sent over Henry de Bromhead.  This mare hasn't many miles on the clock and could be a class above these. Odds of 15/2 (William Hill, 5th odds places 1,2,3,4) look very fair.  Now best-priced at 13/2 and shortening, I'd say the value has gone on this horse.  Hope readers took the 15/2 on Friday evening.  For those looking for an interest in the race, Bobhopenohope is now 10/1 with BetVictor (5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5) and should be there at the finish.

Now the main event: Paddy Power h'cap Chase at 2:20pm. The early fav French Dynamite won a decent hurdle 3 weeks ago, but his chasing form needs to improve 15lb on what we've seen to-date for him to win this. Stolen Silver was on the upgrade all last season and ended with a career-best in April, but this looks a big ask off OR150.  Going left-handed at Cheltenham is a new experience for Ga Law, and he looked listless LTO at Aintree. Yes, that was off the back of a new 2-year lay-off, but he needs to find a tonne of improvement on that run to figure in this race.  Galahad Quest was 5th in this race last year when running off OR135, and he's on OR131 now; but he runs like a horse who wants further than 2m4f and he will likely be in the places again.  The 5yo Il Ridito won a decent race at Newbury in Nov-21 with Numitor well behind, as well as Frero Banbou, and Grey Diamond.  Sent to Sandown on "Tingle Creek" day for the Grade 1 novice chase he was outclassed, and heavy ground did him no favours in a couple of races after that, but at Ayr in April he showed his form again. There was a lot to like about that race, even though he finished tired - he has had wind surgery since - and he looks the sort to go well. 

I can't have Coole Cody, at 11yo (he'll turn 12yo on 1st Jan) age has surely caught up with him. The 9yo Deyrann De Carjac has had too many races, but not so Happygolucky but he's been off the track since Apr-21, and previous to that race he'd started fav for the "Ultima" handicap at the Festival and run 2nd.  If he's fit, he could go well, but it's a big ask. I'm more interested in Umbrigado who won a grade 3 handicap chase at Newbury in Mar-21off OR144, but then had some problems. He comes here fit from hurdling (won LTO) and trainer David Pipe knows what is needed to win this race, and his horses are in form. There aren't many better 14/1 chances.  James Bowen in the saddle and not Nico de Boinville suggests Mister Fisher isn't expected to win, but he's capable of a bold show.  This will be a 3rd run in the race for Simply The Betts, and I can't see him winning this now. One I've not mentioned but looks primed for a big run is Midnight River: he tore a race apart 16-days ago when winning at Stratford, and trainer Dan Skelton went close in this race last season when Protektorat ran 2nd. The worry is that he's a hold-up horse, and this race needs to be ridden from the front. 

For me, IL RIDOTO ticks a lot of boxes, and odds of 8/1 are fair but not generous. I also think Umbrigado is worth a smaller interest at 14/1 (William Hill and Coral).

Advised wagers:
Cheltenham 2:20 - IL RIDOTO - £5 eachway @ 8/1 
(available generally, 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)
Cheltenham 2:20 - UMBRIGADO - £2.50 eachway @ 14/1 
(William Hill or Corals, 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)

At Uttoxeter, the betting for the Class 3, 3m2f handicap chase at 2:12pm is dominated by the fav Tea For Free, who was in a different class when winning LTO. He is up 13lb to OR125 but that may not be enough to stop him as he could be rated a lot closer to OR140 by the end of this season. Odds of evens look a bit short to me, as he wont have things all his own way as the capable, experienced chaser Classic Ben is the 2nd-fav with plenty of 15/2 available.  I can't recommend a wager, as if Tea For Free is an Or140 chaser in the making then he will easily win this, but there are no certainties in horseracing.

Friday 4 November 2022

Saturday 5th November - Aintree and Wincanton

Not the best of Saturday's lies ahead.  Even though we have meetings at Aintree, Wincanton and Kelso the level of racing available to the punter is fairly ordinary. 
I'm going to take a look at Aintree first, and the 3-mile handicap hurdle at 1:01pm looks an interesting place to start.  I've said before that stayers' hurdles are - in my opinion - a good betting medium (I'm setting myself up for tipping another loser here), and this race has the feel of an upset. The early betting was dominated by Gericault Roque, who spent last season novice chasing and improved hand-over-fist; and Milan Bridge who, though being the same age as Gericault Roque at 6yo, is less experienced. I think this could be a step too quick for Milan Bridge, and David Pipe - trainer of Gericault Roque - also has Remastered in the race. I'm never comfortable when a trainer has a double-entry.  This race looks a big ask for Flight Deck, coming off such a long break; and so I'm drawn to ASHTOWN LAD. He stays really well, as proven by his 5th in the Scottish National in April, and he wasn't far short of being one of last season's best novice chasers - but he was also a very adept staying hurdler before going chasing.  His last hurdle race was at Aintree over this trip when he wasn't disgraced. Odds of 8/1 look very decent, especially as Skybet are offering 4-places to 5th odds. 

More to come.... All the above was written on Friday afternoon, and Ashtown Lad is now a best-priced 6/1 with Milan Bridge the 11/4 fav. This is pure speculation on Milan Bridge; yes Paul Nicholls has his horses flying (16 wins from his last 41 runners) but that does not warrant sending him off fav in this decent handicap. Flight Deck is now the 2nd-fav on 4/1 and he looks handicapped to the hilt will little room for further improvement from the 8yo. So, hoping you read this blog on Friday evening and have taken advantage of the pointer on ASHTOWN LAD.

What else do we have today?  The "Grand Sefton" handicap chase over the National fences at 2:11pm will be exciting to watch, as the race is over 2m5f and will be run at some pace. With Al Dancer apt to make mistakes with his jumping, I would be looking to oppose this 4/1 joint-fav but with what?  There's a couple of old favorites of mine in the race: Spiritofthegames and Senior Citizen. Both have performed well over these fences before, with Senior Citizen coming 2nd in this race, and he looks poised for a good run in this.  Senior Citizen goes best off a good break, he has won his seasonal debut in 3 of the past 4 seasons and was 2nd in the race he didn't win. He looks sure to go well so long as he gets around and in 4 races around these fences he has never yet failed to finish. Odds of 15/2 (5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 with Skybet - others offer just 4-places) look very fair given his record. Sure, Lifetime Ambition comes over from Ireland for this, but his run at Punchestown LTO probably flattered him, and he's not value at 4/1.

I'm trying not to look too hard for winners, studying the form too long can make you force the form to fit your (subliminal) selection. There are strong reasons for the above couple of selections (Ashtown Lad and Senior Citizen), and the odds available when advised on this blog (Friday evening for Ashtown Lad; Saturday morning for Senior Citizen) make an eachway wager on the pair available.

At Wincanton, the "Badger Beer" handicap chase over 3m1f at 1:50pm is always a solid race, and this year it has punters-pal Frodon as topweight with 12st to carry. The 10yo will need to be at his best to win off this mark, and his last 3 races were not good enough.  Potterman has run 2nd in this race twice, and there's no reason he wont be in the places again, while Rocco (last year's winner at 40/1) hasn't shown similar form since.  Lord Accord won well LTO (beating my selection The Wolf, in the process) and comes here proven fit and in-form; the 7yo is my idea of the fav and he'll be carrying just 10st 6lb, which suggests his current odds of 6/1 look fair value.  Also in the race is Neville's Cross who pulled-up behind Lord Accord at Cheltenham: he is interesting as on his day he is more than capable of running well off his current mark of OR142  - he beat Danny Kirwan at Kempton easily in May, and that horse ran a cracker at Ascot last Saturday. Odds of 22/1 look enticing for those who like a more speculative wager.

Aintree 1:01pm - ASHTOWN LAD @ 8/1 (advised Friday) £5 eachway (5th odds a place 1,2,3,4)
Aintree 2:11pm - SENIOR CITIZEN @ 15/2 - £5 eachway (5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 SKYBET)
Wincanton 1:50pm - LORD ACCORD @ 6/1 - £5 win (Bet365 and William Hill
Total Staked - £25

Sunday 30 October 2022

Sunday 30th October - Hindsight

No doubt about it, hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Yesterday, a great "win" double was staring me in the face, and I overlooked the obvious and instead tried to fathom a tricky early-season handicap chase. 

Re-reading my own blog, what I should have done was stay with Bravemansgame - especially when his odds drifted due a spectacular, and ill-judged, gamble on Ahoy Senor. And I should have coupled that selection with Proschema in the 3-mile hurdle earlier in the Wetherby card.  For years, I've made clear my opinion that 3-mile hurdle races are a punters paradise as very few horses have the ability to win at 3-miles, and yesterday - as I wrote on my blog - Proschema merely had to repeat his effort when 2nd in this race last season to be in with a winning chance. As it turned-out, he didn't even have to do that as the fav Sporting John was very disappointing (he does have more than his share of off days), and the 2nd-fav Threeunderthrufive was using the race to prepare for a season of chasing.

Looking ahead with this pair, Proschema is a long way short of winning a Grade-1 Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival,  but it's certainly worth noting him outside of Grade-1 races. The same applies to Bravemansgame, who though he won, he didn't set the world alight to me.

Let's take a quick look ahead to the renamed Coral Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Newbury on 26th November - for decades this was the "Hennessey" and latterly the "Ladbroke Trophy" . 
It is interesting that Dan Skelton has entered Protektorat, but OR164 looks a tough mark for him in a top handicap like this.  I'm more interested that Bravemansgame could run in this off OR161, as yesterday's race will have him in peak form for the 26th Nov, those odds of 14/1 look interesting.
Last years' runner-up Fiddlerontheroof looks capable of running another big race off OR155, he's at 16/1.  The "Ultima" Chase winner Corach Rambler should be in the mix, but current odds of 6/1 are laughable at this time.  I think the ground was a bit quick for Fantastikas in that race, but he still ran well, and odds of 25/1 about him look interesting as he's a lot better than OR142, and that rating should ensure that he is just in the handicap proper, with 10st or 10st1lb to carry.

Those are my 3 early antepost selections for the Coral Gold Cup Handicap Chase:
Bravemansgame @ 14/1
Fiddlerontheroof @ 16/1
Fantastikas @ 25/1

Friday 28 October 2022

Saturday 29th October - Charlie Hall Chase

We're right in the thick of it now, this weekend is a feast of decent jump racing. There are top-class meetings at Wetherby and Ascot, and a solid supporting meeting at Ayr; and these follow a great couple of days of jump racing. The Charlie Hall Chase (Grade 2) at Wetherby at 3:35pm is the feature race of the day, but has a disappointing low turnout of just 5 runners. The Paul Nicholls' trained Bravemansgame is the likely fav, and so he should be as he appears to have much the best form to-date and gets a valuable 3lb from his highest rated rival Eldorado Allen.  I reckon Ahoy Senor is a horse who could probably do better over a longer trip, and I also think he was flattered LTO at Aintree.  Do not underestimate the 10yo Sam Brown who ran a career-best LTO at Aintree, and he may give the fav the most to think about.  This is a stamina-test for Paint The Dream, and there's potential that he may stay 3-miles - but will he find improvement? I cannot recommend a wager in this race, but will likely try a reverse forecast with Bravemansgame coupled-with Sam Brown to small money.

Earlier on the card at Wetherby is the West Yorkshire Hurdle over 3-miles at 3:00pm, and while Sporting John looked every inch a Grade 1 hurdler over this trip LTO, he won't have things all his own way in this as he does seem to run best when on soft/heavy ground.  The race was won last year by Indefatigable, but she races this year on worse terms and even if she can match that effort, she'd be unlikely to win. The horse in 2nd though, Proschema, looks interesting as he's repeated his "pipe-opener" at Chepstow. He gets a valuable 4lb from Sporting John and a repeat of last years' run could be enough. Thomas Derby was well beaten in this race last year, and it's not easy to see him running better this time; Threeunderthrufive would need to improve 20lb on his last hurdle run and so would Oscar Elite.  With Skelton's horses running much better than those of Hobbs, I'm thinking the value in the race could be Proschema.

The Ascot card is a real favourite of mine and one that I've had some good wins at over the years.  The opening novice chase at 1:30pm is intriguing as we see the top-class, yet enigmatic, Goshen run his chase debut.  Jumping fences could really be the making of him, and it should be applauded that trainer Gary Moore has switched him from hurdles as a 6yo.  That said, I'm not willing to risk a wager on the horse as all his 3 rivals look to have the potential to cause an upset. 

The Ascot 2:40pm race is a 2-mile handicap (Class 1) chase, and brings together a very competitive field of runners. On 1st-glance, the only one's that I can discount are Daly Tiger and Joke Dancer, but that still leaves 7-runners all closely matched. The 5yo Nassalam was "put-away" after winning LTO in February at Fontwell, and could be a lot better than his OR145 rating. Amoola Gold loves Ascot, and has slipped to a rating of OR143 which puts him 10lb better with Before Midnight when they met here over C&D last November. Thyme White was considered to be well-handicapped but he was beaten here off this OR142 rating last March. If Gumball ran to his potential off OR137, then he'd win this race by 20-lengths but he's just unreliable - however, he is fit from a campaign on the flat. Monsieur Lecoq won this race in the Stewards' Room last year, but he's not repeated that sort of form since (was behind Amoola Gold and Before Midnight over C&D a month later), and he's plenty to prove. One that looks interesting is Frero Banbou who is sent by Venetia Williams:  he was a well-beaten 3rd in this race last year, but clearly improved as the season wore on.  I cannot imagine he's here on a "pipe-opener" and he looks fairly handicapped. This is a tricky race to fathom: NASSALAM @ 7/1 could be the answer, as he's won here and is probably the only one in the race with potential to improve on what we've seen of him so far. 

Finally, the London Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot at 3:15pm.  This Class 1 races brings together a top-class field of 13 runners.  The ground isn't soft enough for Good Boy Bobby, or Mister Malarky, and probably Full Back. The 7yo Tea Clipper ran a cracker just 21-days ago at Chepstow and could improve for the run, but this 3-mile trip may extend him. No such issue's with Kitty's Light, and the ground will suit too; and he ran in the Chepstow race but was well behind that day.  He can get tailed-off, but on a going day he is well-handicapped. The lightly-raced 7yo Annsam won over C&D in December, and the runner-up won NTO, so that form is strong; so even though he's rated 5lb higher now on OR139, he's fairly handicapped. The downside is he's not run since April and will probably need the run. The 14yo Regal Encore loves Ascot, but must surely be feeling his age now. The 7yo Our Power hasn't shaped well in races over this sort of trip, and this is a stiff 3-mile likely to be run at a good pace. The same applies to Danny Kirwan who while being a course winner over 2m5f isn't guaranteed to stay the trip.  It's no surprise to see Major Dundee heading the betting: he's only had 4 chase races, and he's won twice, run a good 2nd and been 3rd in the Scottish National - what's not to like? Up The Straight steps up in trip as he's not improved as a chaser, but he's going to have to improve a lot to win this race.  Poppa Poutine is a horse that appears to want marathon trips. And that leaves Rapper: he's only had 5 chase races, and appeared unsuited by Cheltenham at the Festival, but he probably deserves another chance as his couple of wins before that suggest he has potential as a staying chaser - certainly at 40/1 he's worth a small ew wager.

Ascot 2:40pm - NASSALAM - £5 win @ 8/1 (William Hill)
Ascot 3:15pm - RAPPER - £2.40 eachway @ 40/1 (Paddy Power quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4)
Ascot 3:15pm - MAJOR DUNDEE - £10 win @ 5/1 (Paddy Power)

Saturday 22 October 2022

Saturday 22nd October 2022 - Cheltenham

What a week it has been, but next week could be even more tumultuous. They say a day is a long time in politics, but the situation changed by the hour this week.  At least we have the regularity and security of horseracing - and the powers that be managed to make the sensible decision to maintain a 4-day Cheltenham Festival and put-to-bed any thoughts of including Saturday and making it 5 days long.  Apparently, it was the ground and the heavy rain that occurred on the course on the 2nd day of this years' Festival that swayed opinion - the possibility of heavy rain during a 5-day Festival could turn the spectacle into a public flagellation.

We're back at Cheltenham today with a half-decent card to review and - hopefully - find a winner.

There's a 3m1f handicap chase at 2:05pm and the fav is The Hollow Ginge who was just pipped in the race last year off a rating of OR137.  He's on OR127 today and the reason is his form went down the pan after that and, while he does go well fresh, it' a big ask for him to rekindle his form.  Another 9yo, Captain Cattistock is the 2nd-fav and he's won his last couple of races and goes off OR132 which is fair, as he won over 4-miles here at Cheltenham off OR135 in a hunter-chase back in April 2021.  To be fair, he was much the best horse in that race and this is a tad more difficult, as he meets The Wolf on 10lb worse terms than when they met in February.  The Wolf goes well fresh, and will appreciate the ground today - at 8/1 he looks much the best value.This will only be the 4th chase race for Coeur Serein, who is better-known as a hurdler. There's the possibility that his jumping is more confident now, so he's fairly handicapped on OR137. The 7yo Almazhar Garde is also fairly handicapped, but he never seems to run well at Cheltenham, so I'll ignore him. So, having started off thinking Captain Cattistock was the most likely wager, I've flirted with Coueur Serein, and ended-up falling firmly with THE WOLF who is trained by the very capable Olly Murphy. 

There's a 2-mile handicap chase at 3:15pm but this race looks very competitive, and the Mullins entry Dads Lad could be well-in off OR135, as could Gordon Elliott's entry Poseidon. This meeting is used by Elliott to gain knowledge of the level of the UK horses, especially the novice chasers, so he sends over horses that he knows well and can provide him with a good yardstick to the form. Mullins is more "reliable" in that he won't send a horse over from Ireland unless he thinks is has a good chance of winning. 
Just the single selection this week.  We were a tad unlucky last week in the race was run at a serious pace which knocked the stuffing out of our selection, who wasn't able to mount a serious challenge and ran 2nd.  I'm hoping for a better result today.

Cheltenham 2:05pm - THE WOLF £5 eachway & £5 win @ 15/2 
(available generally, 5th odds a place 1,2,3)
Total staked = £15

Saturday 15 October 2022

Saturday 15th October 2022 - Champions Day at Ascot

I'm sure most eyes will be on Ascot and the "Champions Day" meeting there. Even Kwasi Kwarteng may pay a visit, to explore if he's any better with wagers on horseracing than he is playing the financial markets like he would a roulette table.

The racing at Ascot looks tremendous, but I'm not a great one for placing wagers on the flat at this time of the season.  Though, I can't see Trueshan being beaten in the opening Long Distance Cup on ground that he will love, and over a trip that we know suits him well. But the horse I really want to see is Baaeed winning the Champion Stakes.  It has been a glorious career for the horse, and what progress - his opening race was a class 4 maiden over a mile at Leicester, just over 15 months ago.

My focus is on the jumps racing at Market Rasen, where the class 2 handicap chase over 2m5f at 3:37pm looks very interesting.  Only 6 horses go to post, and I'm drawn to the bottom-weight GUY who never seems to run a bad race, but always seems to find one better. The "good" ground holds no fears for him, and the trip should suit him as he was a close 2nd in the race last year.  I think he's a good bit better than OR129, whereas his rivals all look to be on ratings that they may struggle to win off.  Killer Clown usually needs a run; Kiltealy Briggs possibly wants 3-mile; it's tricky to know what to make of Irish raider Rapid Response; and Orrisdale goes too well on heavy ground to suggest that this quicker surface will bring out the best in him. The obvious danger to the selection is the likely fav Tamaroc Du Mathan, but Market Rasen is not a great hunting ground for Paul Nicholls. 

Overall, GUY appears to represent the best option in the race, and I managed to get-on at the odds of 9/2 (I'm writing this bit on Friday evening).  There was a little bit of 6/1 available (from Bet365 and Skybet) around about 16:30 on Friday afternoon, but that was soon snapped-up (not by me, I might add), so I took the last of the 9/2 with BetVic.  As I write, there still plenty of 4/1 available, and that's fair value in my opinion.

In my last blog, I discussed some options for anterpost wagers, and I'm going to expand that theme during the jumps season.  The "Paddy Power" Gold Cup at Cheltenham on 12th November is always a top quality handicap to get involved in. The Irish-trained Busselton recently won the Kerry National over 3-mile, but before that he's run well many times over the 2m4f trip of the "Paddy Power".  He's had a busy season already, so it's no certainty that he will line-up for this race in November, but if he does he will likely be shorter odds than the 14/1 currently quoted.  Another horse that looks very interesting is the mare The Glancing Queen who goes well at Cheltenham, and possibly felt the soft ground when 7th in the "Plate" handicap chase over the course & distance at the Festival.  Coming to the 2nd-last that day she looked capable of finishing in the 1st-3, but emptied-out quickly.  I'm putting that down to the more testing soft ground . For an 8yo she has very few miles on the clock, and she could prove to be a lot better than her rating of OR145 when the conditions suit.

Friday 30 September 2022

Dawn of a new jumps season - 1st October 2022

It’s that time again; the 1st weekend in October when we have the culmination of the flat season with the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp – but what that means for me is that horseracing can now start to concentrate on the jumps season that lies ahead of us.

Regular readers will know that for the last few seasons I’ve been using the blog to build-up a portfolio of selections and wagers for the Cheltenham Festival in March, and I’ve met with plenty of success. In 2020, profits were £104.16 on total stakes of £186.00; in 2021, profits were £183.50 on total stakes of £237.00.  In 2022, profits were £394.50 on stakes of £222.00 – it was one helluva week!  So, I’ve set myself a tremendously difficult task if I’m to match (or better) that performance.

On Sunday 27th March, I posted a recap of this years Festival, and nominated a fantasy “yankee” wager for 2023, involving Constitution Hill (Champion Hurdle), Energumene (QMCC), Flooring Porter (Stayers hurdle), and A Plus Tard (Gold Cup). Right now, I wouldn’t put off anyone from taking current odds about those 4.  There are a few others mentioned in that blog that need watching carefully over the coming weeks. They are: Galopin Des Champs – I’m not sure if this one will be aimed at the Ryanair Chase or the Gold Cup, but whichever race he goes for he will need serious consideration. Farouk D’Alene – fell 2-out when going easily in the RSA Chase, and while I cannot say he’d have beaten L’Homme Presse, he would have gone close. He could be interesting in one of the major handicap chases.

Essentially, you have to focus on the major championship races but – if you keep stakes small – then you can also include a couple of speculative wagers.  For instance, I think if Shishkin returns to racing as good as he was (and that is by no means guaranteed), then he could be aimed at the Ryanair Chase (and not the QMCC). Why do I think that? His trainer, Nicky Henderson does not have a chaser capable of going close in the Gold Cup and I think he will aim Shiskin at the “King George” chase at Kempton on Boxing Day over 3-miles.  If he wins that race, then Henderson has his Gold Cup horse, but if he goes close then he could be dropped in trip and attempt to win the Ryanair instead. So, odds of 8/1 (Skybet) for the Ryanair Chase, 33/1 (Paddy Power) for the Gold Cup, or 14/1 (Bet365) for the King George V1 Chase all look worth taking.

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Pyledriver and the "King George" at Ascot

 There has been a fair amount of debate over the running of the King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Group 1) at Ascot on 23rd July 2022, a race won by the 5yo colt PYLEDRIVER.  The main consternation being that the winner was the rank outsider of the 6 runners; going off at an SP of 18/1 having traded at odds of up to 28/1 on the day of the race.  

Many of the comments on Twitter were from disgruntled punters who, on the basis of the result, thought the "game was gone"!  From my perspective, as a value punter, I had posted a comment on Twitter about 5 hours before the race stating that Pyledriver was no forlorn hope despite being 25/1 (at the time).   

Why did I post that comment? First reason is there were only 6 runners in the race, so for any horse to be 25/1 in a race with so few runners then it must be well outclassed, or running in a race which is unsuitable (wrong trip, wrong ground). This race is run at Ascot over a mile & a half (12 furlongs) and Pyledriver went into the race as a Course & Distance winner (on 16June2020, Group 2), so no issues on that score. Furthermore, he went into the race with an official rating of OR119, with his highest rated rival being Mishriff on OR125; so again he was not really "outclassed". On official ratings only 8lb covered the six runners so, on paper, it looked a competitive race - yet the race fav was the 3yo Westover who went off at odds of just 13/8.

Further measure of the competitive nature of the race warrants a quick review of the other runners:
Torquator Tasso: winner of the 2021 Prix de L'Arc De Triomphe and rated OR123 (my rating 117).
Mishriff: winner of Group 1 races Juddmonte International; Sheema Classic, and the Prix Du Jockey Club coming into the race on OR125 (my rating 120).
Broome: recent winner of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes over C&D, and rated OR120 (my rating 115).
Westover: recent winner of the Irish Derby and rated OR120 (my rating 116).
Emily Upjohn: the only filly, and recently beaten a short-head in the Oaks at Epsom, rated OR117 (my rating 115).

How did I rate Pyledriver coming into the race? He was 2nd at Shatin over 12f in December, and repeated that level of form at Meydan in March in the Group 1 Sheema Classic, and he'd won the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Epsom in 2021.  Sure, he'd run below form on his previous race at Epsom when 2nd in this years Coronation Stakes to the consistent Hokum but, at his best he was capable of 120+ and I rated him 116+.

My idea of the most likely winner of the race on Saturday morning was Mishriff: he had the highest official rating and I also rated him highly; but he had been beaten in this race last year which suggested Ascot's 12f was too far for him after a similar preparation (ran placed in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown). So he wasn't one to take short odds about. His odds of 5/2 were about right, and there was no value in him.
Although my next highest rated was Torquator Tasso, his best form was on ground with some give and I thought the quick good-to-firm at Ascot would find him out. I thought he was a 12/1 chance, and so odds of 16/1 were interesting, but I just could not see him winning on this quick ground.  
With Broome a consistent failure at Group 1 level, he could not be considered a potential winner of this race, and his odds of 18/1 reflected his chance.  
I thought the betting significantly overrated the chance of the filly Emily Upjohn who was the lowest on official ratings and my personal ratings.  She should have been 25/1, and not 3/1 which made no sense to me at all. 
The fly in the ointment was Westover, and I swung away from him on the basis of 3yo's having poor recent form in this race and my opinion (based on the way he won at the Curragh) that perhaps the race would not be run as he wanted it. His odds of 13/8 were far too short - unless he was the "real deal" - but the form of the Derby and the Irish Derby had been let down, and he was more of a 3/1 chance.
The only runner in the race whose odds represented value was Pyledriver: his recent form was strong, he was more than capable of winning this race at his best form, and he was a C&D winner.  I thought odds of 4/1 fairly represented his chance before the race, and so the early 25/1 was a gift and I'm not surprised some value-seekers took that and he went off at 18/1.

I'm sure some will say it's easier to see in hindsight, but I'm not posting this to brag - I'm posting this to advise.  The betting market is what it says: it's a market where the bookies sell odds and if you don't think the odds represent value, then don't buy. I'll be honest: if I had been at Ascot my £40 would have been staked as £30 win on Mishriff, and £10 win on Pyledriver.   

Saturday 9 April 2022

The 2022 Grand National - 9th April

Crowds return to Aintree: home of the Grand National.

I'm sure this is going to be a fantastic race as there does not seem to be a horse holding an outstanding chance in the race.  It looks a real puzzle of a race to try and find the winner, and if successful that winner could be at decent odds. There are a lot of front-runners in this race and we could see an electric fast pace set on the 1st-circuit: so slower horses may get left a long way behind.
In number order:-
1) This year. the top-weight is OR161 rated Minella Times, who won the race last year but he was only carrying 10st 3lb then and has 11st 10lb this year.  To be fair - he's not in the same form having pulled-up LTO, and I will be surprised if he finishes in the 1st-4. 
2) Delta Work looked as good as ever LTO winning the Cross-Country chase at Cheltenham, and this multiple Grade 1 winner certainly has the stamina to win a National - my worry is that he's spent 2 years in the doldrums since winning the Irish Gold Cup in Feb2020, and maybe that win LTO was overrated.  
3) School Boy Hours managed to get in yesterday and could well run a big race. He looked destined for better days when a novice, but his form was indifferent until winning a top handicap chase on 27Dec.  He was pulled-up at Cheltenham after an error put him out of the race, and he's the sort who could surprise. 
4) On 11st 8lb is another McManus horse in Any Second Now who was 3rd in this race last year with 10st 9lb (OR152). He ran a cracker LTO at Fairyhouse beating Escaria Ten and looks primed for a big run. Remember, he was badly hampered mid-race last year, so looks very interesting if finding a clear run.
5) Run Wild Fred is a plodder: pure and simple, but he could finish in the 1st-5.   
6) The 10yo Lostintranslation isn't the horse he was when 3rd in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup, and I will be surprised if he finishes the race.
7) The 11yo Brahma Bull hasn't run a race worthy of his lofty OR154 rating in years. 
8) Last year, Burrows Saint was well-fancied and held every chance 3-out but faded; he's carrying 6lb more this year with 11st 5lb (OR156) and he may struggle to win again.
9) Regular readers of the blog will remember that I noted Mount Ida as a potential Ladbroke Trophy winner after she won the "Kim Muir"; but it was the horse in 2nd Cloudy Glen who went on to win it! She goes best right-handed and may not be suited to the course.
10) Trainer Martin Brassil won the 2006 Grand National with Numbersixvalverde, and Longhouse Poet is taking a similar route having won the Thyestes Chase over 3m1f on 27Jan. That was a top handicap win, but he runs off a 10lb higher mark in this (OR155) and that may prove too much.
11) A horse who looks weighted to win this is Fiddlerontheroof: not beaten far by top novice Monkfish in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in 2021, he only just failed to win the Ladbroke Trophy in November and I think he was beaten by the soft ground LTO at Ascot.  This prominent runner looks just the type.
12) Two For Gold has run 7 times at trips beyond 2m7f and won 3 times, but he's nearly always run in races with under 10 runners - this may be too much for him.
13) Santini was a top-class staying chaser two-years ago but lost his way. If Polly Gundry has rekindled his enthusiasm then he could run a cracker, as I was impressed by his run at Cheltenham in January - odds of 50/1 could be huge. 
14) Samcro is an odd sort who only runs to his best when he wants to, and is an unreliable type.
15) Escaria Ten was beaten "on-the-nod" LTO by Any Second Now, but that was a great prep for him as he looks a horse who wants a marathon.  He was only 3-lengths behind Galvin in the NH Chase over 3m6f in Mar2021 (with Snow Leopardess a well beaten 4th) and, off OR152 with 11st 1lb, he must go close.
16) While Good Boy Bobby has improved this season, but seems best suited by soft ground.
17) Romain De Senam is a late entry and I cannot see him getting close. 
18) Coko Beach at 7yo is too young, and he's also inconsistent.   
19) It is a big ask to think De Rasher Counter who won the Ladbroke Trophy in Nov2019 can win this having run just twice in the last 2 years with his run in February his first in 16 months. 
20) If Kildisart has come back from injury as good as he once was, then he could be capable of a bold show - but they never come back as good as they once were.
21) Last year, Discorama ran in this off a break of nearly 5-months and was in with a chance 2-out before fading quickly.  He's had a prep-run this time over 3-mile on 9th Feb, just failing behind Full Time Score who is fancied to go well in the Irish National; so I reckon Discorama will run a big race.
22) Top Ville Ben is unreliable, and also performs best in the mud.
23) Enjoy D'Allen does stay well, but finds races hard to win, so he could well run into a place. 
24) Anibale Fly at 12yo is surely past his best in what looks a competitive race. 
25) Dingo Dollar is a horse who is a serial under-performer, and it would take a career-best for him to win this.
26) Freewheelin Dylan has his fans, but I'm not one - he was a fortunate winner of the Irish National at odds of 150/1 and lightening does not strike twice.
27) Class Conti hasn't won in 3 years and his best form is on soft/heavy ground.
28) Noble Yeats is ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen and is sure of a bold run, but this novice chaser looks to be on a tough handicap mark at OR147. 
29) Mighty Thunder won last years Scottish National and was 2nd in the Midlands National - a repeat of that form would see him go close, but this season he's not looked the same horse and has had a recent wind operation. 
30) Cloth Cap was favourite last year, but I thought he wasn't up to this race and he wasn't. He's not looked the same horse since and is an unlikely winner.
31) Snow Leopardess is one of this years market leaders having won the Becher Chase here in December over the National fences. I think she will go well for a long way, but her handicap mark of OR146 looks tough, and when not racing on soft ground she's looked slow. 
32) Agusta Gold has run well in races beyond 3-mile but finds winning difficult.
33) Commodore is another late qualifier and again I like this one: always runs best when fresh and he's been aimed at this since winning at Cheltenham almost making-all in December. The sort who will run a great race from the front.
34) Deise Aba loves Sandown and soft/heavy ground and I just think this race isn't for him.
35) Blaklion has always run a big race over these fences, and at 13yo it's likely he will enjoy himself again, but he can't win - can he?
36) Poker Party is one of these horses that should never have been entered, his claim to fame is winning the Kerry National beating Ravenhill who went on to win the NH Chase at Cheltenham - but that win was in Sept2019.
37) Before the recent Cheltenham Festival, trainer Gordon Elliott said Death Duty was the best handicapped chaser in his stable - I didn't think so and his subsequent run at Cheltenham was poor. His recent win over 3m4f on heavy suggests he wants a slog in the mud.
38) Domaine De L'Isle struggled recently in the Eider Chase over 4m1f so a big turnaround in form is required - and that's unlikely.
39) Eclair Surf is another late entry and he has to be in with a chance: the form of his win in the Warwick Classic over 3m5f was excellent (Corach Rambler in 4th and Gericault Roque in 2nd finished 1st & 2nd in the Ultima Chase at the Festival); and then pushing subsequent Scottish National winner Win My Wings in the 4m1f Eider Chase LTO was a stonking effort. Even on OR143, he could be 7lb well-in here.
40) Fortescue ran a cracker to win LTO at Ascot, beating Fiddlerontheroof - but that win was on soft ground.  When the pair met on good-to-soft in the Ladbrokes Trophy in November, Fortescue was well beaten. He may struggle to keep up the pace. 

My shortlist is 
Fiddlerontheroof - this is my main hope to win
Eclair Surf - should be in the 1st-5
Escaria Ten - should be in the 1st-5
Any Second Now - may need a bit of luck as he's carrying a lot more weight than last year
Discorama - could run a big race at a huge price

Thursday 7 April 2022

Aintree - Friday 8th April

Yesterday was not the best of days - not a sniff of a winner, or even a place (both advised selections were eachway wagers).  A bad jumping error put paid to the chances of Pic D'Orhy, but he wasn't running well and possibly wants to go right-handed.  He beat Millers Bank LTO and that one looked to have a bundle in-hand when winning this race. 
Then Brazil was clearly over-the-top as he was unable to cope with the leading pair, Pied Piper and Knight Salute. The Irish-trained Pied Piper has looked a decent juvenile hurdler since his debut on 31Dec; but he met his match in Knight Salute! The Milton Harris trained gelding has now won 6 of his 7 hurdle races and gone from strength to strength. He has pricked a few bubbles this season and this was a well deserved Grade 1 win.
The Betway Bowl again went to a horse who bypassed the Cheltenham Festival, and all those that ran at the Festival ran poorly in this race. Clan Des Obeaux is a good yardstick, but this wasn't his best performance by a long way - and it didn't need to be. 
Epatante ran possibly a career-best in the Aintree Hurdle, and possible opens up a new avenue for her next season as she's not up to beating Honeysuckle over 2-miles - or stable companion at Seven Barrows, Constitution Hill. 

Onto Friday's racing at Aintree, and I do like the look of FIRST STREET in the Novices' Hurdle at 2:20pm.  He was most unlucky to bump into the exceptionally well-handicapped State Man in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and 4th in that race - West Cork - has since upheld the form. That trainer Nicky Henderson has sent him for this race, along with his top-novice Jonbon, is very interesting.  On my ratings, I think First Street is at least 5lb better than Jonbon.  The Irish challenger El Fabiolo is clearly well thought of, but he's only run in one hurdle race (which he won), and this will be a big ask to win this - unless he is very talented indeed. Odds of 4/1 (generally available) look very attractive to me.

The Grade 2 Mildmay novices' chase over 3m1f looks a cracker, even with just 4 runners. On my ratings, I reckon Bravemansgame is the best of these; but at the odds available it is a no bet race for me.

There looks to be better value in the Grade 1 Marsh Chase, as although I really like Fakir D'oudairies and was very disappointed that he didn't run in the Ryanair Chase (he wouldn't have beaten Allaho, but he would certainly have come 2nd or 3rd at very attractive odds), odds of 11/8 for this competive race are just bonkers. I don't think Funambula Sivola is good enough to win this race - and if he isn't then Hitman isn't, as he beat him easily at level-weights LTO.  Saint Calvados has had his day in the sun, and while this trip will suit him well, he'd need a career-best effort to win. The two that represent vale are Mister Fisher and Allmankind. Mister Fisher is a very good horse on his day, but one who quickly throws-in the towel when it isn't; and he also goes best on soft ground. Allmankind won the "Old Roan" Grade 2 Chase over C&D last October on good ground.  He has won well on sift going, but he's best on good. He's also been aimed at this race since winning here in October, and trainer Dan Skelton is no mug. Odds of 12/1 look massive given that ALLMANKIND is 2nd highest rated in the race, just a pound behind the fav Fakir D'oudairies, on OR163. 

My selections for Friday are:-
Aintree 2:20pm - FIRST STREET - £5 win @ 4/1 (generally available)
Aintree 3:30pm - ALLMANKIND - £5 eachway & £5 win @ 12/1 (5th odds, places 1,2,3 generally available)

We now have the 40 declared runners for the Grand National on Saturday, and all 5 of the horses on my shortlist - see the blog from Tuesday - are in the race: Any Second Now; Escaria Ten; Fiddlerontheroof; Discorama and Eclair Surf.  Of those on the shortlist, I think FIDDLERONTHEROOF holds the best chance and 16/1 with 6-places eachway now available looks good value. I also think Discorama is great value at 40/1 considering he comes into this race better prepared than last season when he ran very well.

Wednesday 6 April 2022

Aintree - Thursday 7th April

An attractive card at Aintree on the opening day of the Grand National meeting - the 1st four races are Grade 1. The opening 2m4f novice chase looks intriguing as 6 go to post, and they all look capable of significant improvement. 

The obvious choice is the Paul Nicholls trained Pic D'Orhy, who won LTO over 2m4f at Kempton beating one of today's rivals Millers Bank.  His only disadvantage is the he has mainly run right-handed, and this tight left-handed track could be his undoing. Millers Bank ran well at this meeting as a novice hurdler and he looked much-improved as a chaser LTO and he might yet go even better in this, but he has a fair bit to make up.  It's tricky to know how goo Erne River is after a couple of runaway wins, but he looks a bit short in the market to me at 100/30.   War Lord is more interesting as he beat some well-fancied horses when 4th in the Arkle; this trip will suit him better than 2-mile.  For me, it's PIC D'ORHY but it's a tricky race and there's not much between them.

The 2m1f 4yo hurdle at 2:20pm looks a cracker of a race.  Cheltenham winner Brazil is a full-brother to St Leger and Irish Derby winner Capri, so it's no wonder he'd not been gelded!  Ordinary on the flat, he's improved rapidly since Christmas and that improvement may not have stopped yet. As such, I think he will prove too strong for Pied Piper who had his limitations exposed in the Triumph Hurdle.  On ratings there's not much between them, but the potential for further improvement lies with BRAZIL.  The only other likely contender is Petit Tonnerre, but he looks like he wants another half-mile and needs to find about 20lb of improvement.   

The Grade 1 Betway Bowl Chase over 3m1f is one the highlights of the meeting; and a top-class field is lined-up including last years winner Clan Des Obeaux.  It was one of his best-ever performances last year, but he's not looked the same since in a couple of runs this season, and it's a big ask for the 10yo to return to that sort of form again. The old-boy Bristol De Mai hasn't looked up to winning a race like this for some time.  The most obvious winner is the Dan Skelton trained Protektorat, who ran a great race to be 3rd in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month - however, he was a long way behind the winner. Alongside him at the finish in the Gold Cup was Royale Pagaille and, to be fair, I think he could prove the better of this pair as he is capable of slightly better form.  However, they could both be beaten by Eldorado Allen who won the Denman Chase at Newbury in February beating both Royale Pagaille and Clan Des Obeaux in the process. He then ran in the Ryanair Chase and had no chance trying to match Allaho over 2m4f, and this trip could be perfect for him.  The 8yo Conflated won a slowly-run Grade 1 Chase in February, and he will be staying-on late, but he could find the pace of this race too string.  I can't see Kemboy repeating his win of 2019 in this race. Looking at the betting market, the odds of 13/2 about ELDORADO ALLEN (William Hill) are the best value in my opinion.  

The 4th Grade 1 of the day is the Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f.  Both the market leaders, Epatante and Zanahiyr are trying this trip for the first time, and it's debatable whether the trip will bring out improvement.  So, I'm going against this pair and having a small wager on BREWIN'UPASTORM who will be in 1st-time cheekpieces.  He ran a poor race in this event last year, but he was much better when a good C&D winner last November, and a repeat of that performance will see him win this.  Odds of 13/2 (Paddy Power) look massive. 

I will give the last 3 races on the card a miss. 

Looking to the Grand National, it looks like there are 3 confirmed non-runners: Anibale Fly, Agusta Gold and Court Maid although we won't know for sure until the final declarations are made tomorrow. 

My wagers are:-
2:55pm ELDORADO ALLEN - £5 eachway @ 13/2 (William Hill) 
3:30pm BREWINUPASTORM - £5 eachway @ 13/2 (Paddy Power)
£5 eachway double at odds of 6/1 & 13/2 with Paddy Power

Tuesday 5 April 2022

What's going to run in the Grand National? Early thoughts

There are 73 horses still in Staurday's Grand National, but only 40 can go to post, so which are the horses likely to run? I will not name them all, to save on space I will just mention those that I think won't run. 
Easysland: hasn't completed a race for over 12 months, I can't see him starting.
Brahma Bull: looks badly handicapped on recent form.
De Rasher Counter: his run on 12th Feb was his first in 16 months, and I wouldn't run him.
Court Maid: recently transferred to Henry De Bromhead, at her best on soft/heavy ground.
Top Ville Ben: at his best in soft/heavy ground, he's not the horse he was.
Anibale Fly: no odds being quoted so it looks as though this 12yo is a non-runner.
Freewheelin Dylan: it's no secret that he's being aimed at the Irish National.
Agusta Gold: no odds being quoted so it looks as though this one is a non-runner.

If I'm right about 6 of those 8 above, then we should see 
(41) Death Duty - winner of a decent race over 3m4f in Feb
(42) Domaine De L'Isle - stayed on to be 4th in the Becher Chase here in December
(43) Eclair Surf - won the Warwick Classic h'cap over 3m5f and then chased home Saturday's Scottish National winner Win My Wings in the 4m1f Eider Chase h'cap - looks well-in on OR143.
(44) Fortescue - has improved with every run this season, but seems best on soft ground.
(45) Commodore - bold front runner, and goes by far the best when fresh - so not having run since December (when he won) is no handicap - could be very exciting.
(46) School Boy Hours - has been crying out for marathon trip, and wasn't given a hard race when beaten after making a mistake LTO. Another interesting contender.

I've looked at the race and produced a shortlist. 
The McManus-owned Any Second Now was 3rd in this race last year with 10st 9lb (OR152).  He ran a cracker LTO at Fairyhouse beating Escaria Ten and looks primed for a big run. Remember, he was badly hampered mid-race last year, dropping-out and looking a beaten horse as they entered the 2nd circuit; but then made-up a lot of ground over the final mile to be 3rd - so he looks very interesting if finding a clear run.  
And don't overlook Escaria Ten who was beaten "on-the-nod" by Any Second Now. That was a great prep for him as he looks a horse who wants a marathon chase, and he was probably in front for too long in that race.  Remember, he was only 3-lengths behind Galvin in the NH Chase over 3m6f in Mar2021 (with Snow Leopardess a well beaten 4th) and, off OR152 with 11st 1lb, he must go close.

A horse who looks weighted to win this is Fiddlerontheroof: not beaten far by top novice Monkfish in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in 2021, he only just failed to win the Ladbroke Trophy in November, on ground similar to what he will encounter at Aintree. He was giving 10lb to the winner that day, and jumped well, was nimble enough to avoid a fallen horse late-on, and ran on very strong.  I think he was beaten by the soft ground LTO at Ascot, as he needed a lot of cajoling mid-race.  Given how much he hated the ground, I thought that was a cracking effort. In 10 chase races, the only time he's not finished in the 1st-2 was when last of 3 in the Grade 1 Novice Chase at Aintree last April.  
Last year, Discorama ran in this off a break of nearly 5-months and was in with a chance 2-out before fading on the run-in. Another who is a graduate of the NH Chase (ran 2nd in 2019), he may have only won his chase debut, but he never runs a poor race. He's had a prep-run this time over 3-mile on 9th Feb, just failing behind Full Time Score who is fancied to go well in the Irish National; so I reckon Discorama will run a big race.

Eclair Surf has to be in with a chance if getting a run: the form of his win in the Warwick Classic over 3m5f was excellent (Corach Rambler in 4th and Gericault Roque in 2nd - they later finished 1st & 2nd in the Ultima Chase at the Festival); and then pushing subsequent Scottish National winner Win My Wings in the 4m1f Eider Chase LTO was a stonking effort. Even on OR143, he could be 7lb well-in here, maybe more.

The only other that I would add to the list is Commodore, but he needs 5 above him in the handicap to be withdrawn - so he has to be a NRNB selection.

If pushed to plump for just the one selection, it would be FIDDLERONTHEROOF as he's guaranteed a run, should stay the trip, it's his "National" debut, and will love the ground.
DISCORAMA went off at 16/1 for this race last year when carrying the same weight as the winner Minella Times. This year he's getting 13lb from that horse, and I think he has a better chance - yet he's available at 40/1 - he must be a eachway wager. 

Good luck, and more later in the week.

Sunday 27 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival 2022 - thoughts for the future

In the (sober) light of day, it's a good idea to take a look back at the races and results of the recent Cheltenham Festival with an unbiased opinion to consider the performances, and to make note of any lessons learned. 

There were some tremendous performances by horse and jockey, and one of the very best came in the opening race when Constitution Hill didn't just run away with the Supreme Novices Hurdle, he put up one of the best performances seen on the track in many a year. This was comparable - if not better - than that of Altior, and he's a year younger at 5yo than that great horse was when he won this race.  Altior peaked at OR175, so will Constitution Hill top that rating and challenge the OR188 rating achieved by another Henderson champion: Sprinter Sacre? With the horse in good hands, Henderson looks set to improve his already great record in the Champion Hurdle next year with Constitution Hill.

The Arkle was not one of best, but it was a very solid performance from the 8yo Edwardstone.  What the future holds for him, I'm not sure, as I think he will struggle when coming up against the likes of Energumene, Shishkin and Ferny Hollow. My speculative selection Haut En Coulours looked like being involved before 2-out but it was not to be.  He's only a 5yo and he will have better days.

Honeysuckle has dominated the 2-mile hurdling division for a couple of years, but that's because the opposition is lacking depth. There was no Sharjah this year, Goshen is too unreliable, and Abacadabras hasn't developed into a proper Grade 1 hurdler.  If Honeysuckle were mine, I would be retiring her to stud with reputation intact.

The NH Chase was a shadow of better days, with just 6 runners, and 4 of those had no chance on form - although for some odd reason Vanillier was sent-off the 11/4 3rd-fav.  The race fav Run Wild Fred is a one-paced plodder who has now come 2nd 6x in 11 chase starts, and in beating him Stattler merely had to complete the race. However, it was a very strong pace set by RWF, as the race-time was 20sec faster than when Galvin won the race last year. No doubt Stattler has improved for going chasing, but so has stable-companion Galopin Des Champs - and GDC beat Stattler over 3-miles easily in a Grade 1 hurdle at Punchestown last April.  It will be interesting which of the pair develops into the Mullins Gold Cup horse for 2023.

It's difficult to know what to make of Sir Gerhard, as he could do no more than win, but he was made to work, and the overall pace was "sedate".  Remember, he only just beat stable-companion Kilcruit in the "bumper" in 2021, and that horse was put in his place in the Supreme by Constitution Hill. For me, Sir Gerhard was a fortunate winner of a weak race. He has a lot more to prove. 

The "Brown Advisory" Grade 1 novice chase over and extended 3-miles was a proper race. A strong field of 9 runners, and the 9/4 fav L'Homme Presse won with confidence.  The runner-up Ahoy Senor is a good yardstick and a horse I can see excelling over marathon trips, but likely to be just short of winning a Grade 1 chase over 3-mile. What was disappointing was the "fall" of Farouk D'alene 2-out when going very easily and with jockey Davy Russell looking like he was holding a double-handful. He was beaten by NH Chase winner Stattler on 30Jan, but showed his liking for soft/heavy ground 3-weeks later when beating Beacon Edge over 3-mile - Farouk D'alene would have gone very close to winning had he not fallen, and odds of 33/1 for the 2023 Gold Cup look interesting.

How on earth did I miss Commander Of Fleet and let him go off at 50/1 with not even £2.50 eachway on? In March 2019, on rain-soddened ground, he split future Gold Cup winner Minella Indo and Ryanair Chase winner Allaho in the Albert Bartlett over 3-miles. Sure, in the intervening period he's had problems resulting in just 3 runs in 30 months before finishing last of 5 in a 2m7f hurdle race at Thurles. He probably would've won NTO but fell 2-out; but he won his 3rd come-back race - a Grade B handicap at Navan in December. He didn't look up to Grade 1 or 2 in his next couple of runs, but wasn't beaten far when 3rd in a Grade 2 LTO only 22-days before winning this. 

I've said all I need to say about Energumene, he was my biggest winner of the Festival.  Over the same C&D later in the day, Andy Dufresne was unlucky to meet a resurgent 10yo Global Citizen who turned the formbook upside-down. This race looks rock-solid and while I do not expect the winner to repeat the performance, Andy Dufresne and the 3rd Frero Banbou, and 4th Editeur Du Gite look well handicapped.

I was at the Festival on Thursday and Friday, and the opening race the Turners Novices' Chase was disappointing. It was a mis-match between Galopin Des Champs and Bob Olinger; and let's be honest Bob Olinger would not have been in the 1st-3 in any of the recent running's of this race - he was very fortunate. It would not surprise me to see Bob Olinger revert to hurdles as he's never going to be a Grade 1 chaser based on this run. Galopin Des Champs came into the race on OR164 and he's well up to that level, possibly better as he would have won this race in a time significantly quicker than Allaho in the Ryanair Chase later in the day - he could be a Gold Cup horse in 2023. 

The Pertemps Handicap Hurdle over 3-miles is a race I have a good record in: and I tipped Third Wind for this on the blog.  He'd run 4th in this race in 2020, and he'd shown himself to be a better horse since then but he is a tricky ride needing a lot of work and having to lead close home. 

There's nothing much more to say about Ryanair Chase winner Allaho or Stayers' Hurdle winner Flooring Porter - they are both clearly the best in their division and should both be back here next year to make it a hat-trick of wins. I tipped Flooring Porter and I still cannot believe he went off at 4/1, so a personal thanks to Willie Mullins for running Klassical Dream, and creating the value in the betting.

I could not look back at the Festival without a mention of Coole Cody: since joining Evan Williams in August 2020 he's run 14 times in the intervening 19 months, 4 times - with 3 wins at Cheltenham. In that period he has been remarkably consistent - compare his form with the younger Spiritofthegames who ran 3rd in this race. Just 16 months ago, Coole Cody received 9lb from "Spirit", on 17Mar he was giving him 9lb. 

In the "Kim Muir", the 10yo Chambard was an interesting winner in that this was his Cheltenham debut, it was his first chase race with more than 10 runners, and it was his 6th run since 1st Jan - most Festival winners only run once between Christmas and running here.

It's been a few years since the Triumph Hurdle produced an outstanding horse, but Vauban could be just that. This race looked above average, and though the pace was moderate (the race was run 4.60 secs slower than the County Handicap hurdle over C&D) when the pace quickened Vauban always looked in control. He's likely to be racing on the flat for the next 18 months, and I doubt he will jump another hurdle until November 2023 - but he could be considered for the Champion Hurdle in 2024.

A potential Champion Hurdle horse for 2023 could be the County Hurdle winner State Man: if you ignore his French debut, this was only his 2nd completed hurdle race - yet he was ridden with supreme confidence in one of the top handicaps of the season.  He's been raised 10lb by the handicapper to OR151, and I think he could be 160+.  He's likely to go for a Grade 1 at Punchestown.  The runner-up First Street was also ridden with confidence, and he could be a very interesting novice chaser next season.

The Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle over 3-miles is developing into a serious race despite 7 of the last 10 winners starting at odds of 14/1 or longer; and The Nice Guy winning at 18/1 is no negative on his potential future.  The Mullins stable main hope was runner-up Minella Cocooner, but he was soundly beaten 5-lengths. The dam of The Nice Guy is a half-sister to Massini's Maguire who won the 2007 Ballymore Hurdle, so class runs through his veins. This was his 1st attempt at 3-mile and the way he won suggests he could be a top-class novice staying chaser next season.  Don't give up on Minella Cocooner, as he met a good one here.

The final race of this review is the Gold Cup, and I don't think anyone will disagree with me that we saw one of the best Gold Cup performances of the last 10 years from A Plus Tard. It's hard to believe that he won the novice handicap chase over 2m4f at the 2019 Festival off OR144 - since then he has been super consistent.  He is at his best coming off a strong pace and I can't see anything beating him next season, even if he returns about 7lb below this. Mullins has a handful of potential Gold Cup challengers: Stattler, Galopin Des Champs, and Allaho - while Gordon Elliott could have a decent one in Farouk D'alene - but, other than Allaho, they need to find significant improvement. 

My fantasy "yankee" for the 2023 Cheltenham Festival is (odds from Paddy Power):-
Champion Hurdle: CONSTITUTION HILL @ 2/1
QMCC: ENERGUMENE (as I expect Shishkin to step-up in trip to 3-miles) @ 7/2
Stayers' Hurdle: FLOORING PORTER @ 5/1
Gold Cup: A PLUS TARD @ 4/1