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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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Thursday 30 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - the review (part 2)

Continuing my review of the recent Cheltenham Festival, I will look at the remainder of the novice races, then the "graded" races, and finally scan the handicaps.  

This years National Hunt (NH) Chase over 3m6f was disappointing for me, as I had advised Mahler Mission as an eachway antepost wager at 9/1 and he looked to be romping away with the race when falling 2-out.  There's a chance he could have been caught, but more "judges" than me reckon he wouldn't - we will never know for sure, although the results of his next few races should indicate whether he had the stamina to stay on or not. Certainly, the eventual 2nd Chemical Energy ran out of steam on the run-in, having been given a sympathetic ride by JJ Codd. The winner, Gaillard Du Mesnil stayed-on well but he'd been under a hard-drive from 4-out and I don't think he ran much better than when 3rd in the "Broadway" Novices Chase in 2022 to L'Homme Presse. As such, I can't see him making much of an impression in Grade 1 chases over 3-mile next season. I'm going to give Mahler Mission a provisional rating of 158 for this run, and assume he could have won by 3-lengths. What we have to note is the result of his previous race when 2nd beaten under a length by Churchstonewarrior as that one goes next for the Irish National and looks well-handicapped on OR147 should he run. Also make a note of the 3rd, Flanking Maneuver as that was his debut chase off a 2-year break and he was only btn just over a length. He surely "bounced" NTO, and that drop in trip to 2m4f probably didn't suit either; but he's worth keeping an eye on.

The final nail in my antepost portfolio came in the Brown Advisory (Broadway) Novices' Chase over 3-mile, when antepost wager Gerri Colombe just failed by a short-head to catch The Real Whacker. I had an interest in two horses in this race, the other being Thyme Hill who was disappointing (trainer reported he lost his jumping confidence).   Connections of The Real Whacker had considered a Gold Cup entry after he'd won the "Dipper" Chase on 1st Jan, and he'd surely have been well outclassed in that race; but he was placed well in this given an enterprising ride by his jockey. He looks to be an adaptable horse who could return here next year with either the Ryanair or the Gold Cup as his target - if he were mine, I'd be looking at the former (as Albertas Run did when twice winning the Ryanair after taking the "Broadway"). As for Gerri Colombe, he looks destined for the top-table over 3-miles in Grade 1 races, as he probably should have won this race - although he did lack pace coming down the hill and was under a hard-drive for a long way. He looks a horse who will appreciate the 3m2f of the Gold Cup, but maybe 3-mile may be too sharp for him.  The big surprise of the race was Bronn, just a 6yo and at the longest odds (50/1) of the 5 (yes, five) Willie Mullins runners. The horse never missed a beat, and it was only 150 yards from the line that he faltered. I will be surprised if he runs again this season as this was a tough race for him, and as he's been given a rating of just OR150 he could pick up a valuable handicap chase in the autumn.  Unfortunately for Sir Gerhard the 3-mile trip found him out. He was very "raw" with his jumping, and his ability and brute strength took him into a challenging position before 2-out, just before his stamina gave-out. He's entered for the 2m4f Grade 1 Novices Chase as Fairyhouse on 09April, and he could be very interesting if lining-up for that race. If not, he could be a Ryanair Chase horse next season, but he does need to improve his jumping.

Sunday 26 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - the Review (part 1)

When looking back over the results of the Cheltenham Festival, one of the things I like to do is see which trends were highlighted in the days beforehand, which ones came right and which ones fell flat. From my own perspective, I like LTO winners and horses that have run since Christmas Day; more than 84 days off the track (12 weeks) is usually enough to scupper the chances of nearly every horse. However, that trend came unstuck in the opening race.  I'm not going to look at every race in this review, for two reasons (1) it will take me about 4 weeks to do a proper review that I'd be proud of; and (2) there is an excellent race-by-race review of the Festival that has been written by Paul Ferguson of Weatherby's. 

The Supreme Novices' Hurdle was won in some style by Marine Nationale, sent into the race by owner-trainer Barry Connell, and this horse had not run since winning at Fairyhouse on 04Dec, but he was a LTO winner. I actually thought the horse would be more suited to the Ballymore Hurdle over 2m5f, but the Supreme was perfect. He looks like there's still more improvement in him and he could easily be a 160+ hurdler.  I reckon this was as good a performance as that put in by Shiskin when he won this race in 2020. The Mullins-trained Facile Vega, have flopped badly LTO when 4th, and was put in his place behind the winner.  He probably needs to step-up in trip now if remaining a hurdler - and he should have no problem staying 2m4f; but I expect this horse to be a novice chaser next season with the "Arkle" being his target.  The surprise of the race for me was Diverge in 3rd. Also trained by Mullins, this gelding was sired by Frankel and (given he pulled so much in the early part of the race) he finished really strong - he could improve a lot on this, and looks exciting for next season. Both Inthepocket and Il Etait Temps look horses that need 2m4f, and they will likely go chasing next season.

The Arkle Novices' Chase was the highlight of the Festival for me, as my antepost selection El Fabiolo came good (as expected) and won in devastating fashion. This is a tricky race to rate, as are all races when the winner spreadeagles the opposition. If we assume Jonbon was considered by Nicky Henderson to be capable of winning an Arkle, then he's likely to have run to 160, which is about the minimum level of performance required, but most Arkle winners run to 160+.  At 160 for Jonbon, that puts El Fabiolo at 167, and that makes his performance one of the best in the Arkle for some time - and this does have the look of being a vintage Arkle. El Fabiolo will have no problem staying 2m4f judging by his breeding, and Willie Mullins has a problem many would love to have looking forward to the 2024 QM Champion Chase, as he also trains Energumene.  I'm not sure where Jonbon goes now, as he looks outclassed at the top-table of 2-mile chase races, but would still be the best we have at the trip this side of the Irish Sea.  He's good, but he doesn't look as good as his half-bro' Douvan who won the Arkle, and I can't see him enjoying a step-up in trip and an attempt at the Ryanair Chase suiting.  The 3rd past the post Saint Roi is another who will be tough to place next season, as he's handicapped to the hilt, and just not good enough to race at Grade 1 level in 2-mile chases.  Dysart Dynamo is a horse who we could see back over hurdles next season; he possesses bags of pace, but his jumping is more hopeful than skilful and his riders just hang-on in hope. 

From the initial couple of races, the winners both look a bit special. With Marine Nationale, his future is largely dependent on what Constitution Hill does, as if CH remains as a hurdler (he could go chasing) then Marine Nationale looks a potential Champion Hurdler in the making, but the best odds available (10/1 with Boylesport) are not attractive. Regards El Fabiolo, he doesn't need another horse to step aside as I expect him to be a better 2-mile chaser than his stable companion Energumene this time next year.  As such, the best available odds about him for the QM Champion Chase of 7/2 (Corals) and 100/30 (Bet365) are interesting for multiple wagers.  To compare the novices, hurdle and chase, I'm going to abandon tradition and jump to Day-2 and the Ballymore Hurdle, and to Day-3 and the "Turners" Novices' Chase.

The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle was  a very strong race on paper, and only the 9/4 fav Hermes Allen failed to shine, but (as I wrote on my blog several times) I didn't think he would; he will be a better chaser.  The race was dominated by Mullins-trained horses, with 3 of his 4 runners filling the 1st-3 places. The winner Impaire Et Passe is easily the best novice hurdler he has, and when you realise that he is only a 5yo and that this was just his 3rd hurdle race, then what a future he must have!  As I held odds of 10/1 on "Impaire" for the Supreme, I'm a bit gutted that he didn't go for that race - and I also had odds of 25/1 on Supreme winner Marine Nationale - right horses, wrong races. With time on his side, Impaire Et Passe is more certain of having a hurdling campaign next season, and odds of 6/1 for the 2024 Champion Hurdle (offered by Bet365 & Coral) look very fair.  Considering he is a better horse than State Man, if Constitution Hill goes chasing then "Impaire" could easily start the Champion Hurdle fav next year.   The runner-up Gaelic Warrior is also a 5yo, and with Mullins thinking he could stay 3-mile, perhaps a try at the Stayers Hurdle before going chasing is possible; he's generally 20/1.

What looked like being one of the races of the Festival, and yet again going to an Irish-trained winner, instead drew Paul Nicholls to the winners enclosure. The Turners Novices' Chase could possibly have been run at a stronger pace, and the eventual winner Stage Star was able to dictate from the front. Given he was proven over C&D, this was a tactical error by rival jockeys; and when the winner struck for home they had no chance of catching him. My immediate thoughts post-race, was that Stage Star was Nicholls "Gold Cup" horse for 2024, and there is plenty of stamina in his pedigree. The odds of 25/1 (Paddy Power) look very generous considering Bravemansgame is unlikely to better this years' performance (when 2nd in the GC), and promising novice Gerri Colombe needs soft ground. The surprise of the race was Notlongtillmay who came into this race on OR142, and ran a cracker. I expect this horse to stay ahead of the handicapper, and I reckon he could win a couple of 3-mile chases in the autumn.  Unfortunately, Mighty Potter was exposed here, this is as good as he gets over this trip, and as he was staying on (under a hard drive) he may also may need to step-up to 3-miles.

What do we have from these novice races going forward? 
Marine Nationale could probably be best-placed going chasing next season, in which case the "Arkle" would be the most likely target; however, the early odds of 5/1 being offered are not generous.
As Impaire Et Passe is more certain of hurdling next season, current odds of 6/1 for the 2024 Champion Hurdle (offered by Bet365 & Coral) look very fair, and probably should be taken.
El Fabiolo looks to be a better 2-mile chaser than his stable companion Energumene.  As such, the best available odds about him for the QM Champion Chase of 7/2 (Corals) and 100/30 (Bet365) are interesting for multiple wagers.
Stage Star? While, he looks an interesting horse for 2023-24, and I can see him running in the Gold Cup next March, he will need fortune on his side to figure in the finish of that race. 

Friday 24 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - the review (and what went wrong)

That's it for another year, and when it's over the preparation begins for the next one. My own performance can only be measured as profit or loss; and let's be realistic, with just the one winner (El Fabiolo) it wasn't vintage. I've thought that perhaps I spread my assessments of the horses & races too thin, tried to hit too many targets when I should have been more specific.  I tell readers of the blog to pick &choose their targets - and then I didn't follow my own advice! We live and learn.
I'm not sure how this review is going to pan-out. I generally look at each race in-turn, and try and spot horse's to look out for in the coming weeks and months. And then I usually have a wrap-up and try and identify any potential wagers for 2024. 
This is my fantasy Yankee posted on 27-March 2022 for the 2023 Cheltenham Festival (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  
Not too bad; 2 winners from 4 selections, the successful double returning £135 to a £10 stake, that's £25 profit on the original 11 bets in the Yankee. Not only that, but I predicted Shishkin stepping-up in trip. I hope I can repeat this success at the end of this review when I post a "Yankee" for 2024.
Before I go any further and review the Festival race-by-race, let's have a brief look at the Gold Cup won by Galopin Des Champs. First, let us compare the ratings: RPR, Speed, Timeform, and My Rating with previous Gold Cups.

Most judges rate the performance by Don Cossack when winning in 2016 to be the best since Foot & Mouth disease caused the cancellation of the Festival in 2001.  From my "composite" rating detailed above, Don Cossack isn't the best, he's not even in the top-5 best winners since 2006.  I haven't gone earlier than 2007, as before that I wasn't keeping my own ratings.
Despite the above table putting Imperial Commander's winning performance in 2010 as the best recent run in the Gold Cup; personally, I have Denman as the best staying chaser we've seen since "foot & mouth" in 2001, as Denman met, and beat, a peak Kauto Star (who when on to win the Gold Cup again in 2009).  I'm fairly sure that had he not had his health issue's, Denman would easily have beaten Kauto Star in 2009. Why is that? 
The Gold Cup is an interesting trip, being a quarter-mile longer than a "standard" 3-miles, and having that final quarter-mile running up that hill (thank you Kate Bush). I believe the best trip for Kauto Star was the 3-miles of Kempton, and beyond that trip Denman was definitely superior. Or rather, "Kauto" could not achieve a performance in a Gold Cup within 5lbs of his best (which he ran at Kempton). However, Kauto Star was such a high-class chaser, he didn't need to perform to his best to win a couple of Gold Cups!  I'm sure Denman would have won the Gold Cup again in 2009, as that autumn he perhaps put in what I rate as the best performance of his life - and possibly the best staying chase performance seen since the days of Desert Orchid - when winning the Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury over 3m2f in November 2009, which I rated 184. When Kauto Star won the "King George" over 3-miles, he put in an amazing performance too, possibly equal to 184 - but he was so far in front of the horse in 2nd it's just a guess how good he was that day.
So what of Galopin Des Champs? As per the identical speed ratings (171), I don't think there's that much between this winning performance and that of A Plus Tard last year.  While speed ratings are not the be-all-and-end-all, they are an important consideration, as they give resonance to the overall rating.  Let's be honest here: ratings are subjective to opinion, that's why there's disparity in the table above. Even speed ratings have some interpretative factor within them, due to the effect of the ground on the race-time; but there's more of a calculation behind them. What is interesting from the table above, is that Galopin's speed rating of 171 has been matched or beaten by 5 winners since the surprise victory of Lord Windermere in 2014.  The highest speed rating in that period (176) was by Al Boum Photo in 2019, and he went on to win the Gold Cup a 2nd time in 2020. I tipped Al Boum Photo to win that 2nd Gold Cup (I didn't think he was good enough in 2019) mainly due to that high speed rating, which was the highest recorded in the race since Imperial Commander in 2010. There's no doubt in my mind that a fit and healthy Galopin Des Champs can win the Gold Cup again in 2024, but before you go out and put the mortgage on a 6/4, I would have said the same thing about A Plus Tard last year. In my opinion, the only chink in the armour of GDC is that a bold, prominent effort by a horse like Coneygree or Native River - who are considered more than 5lb below GDC - could give him a scare over the Gold Cup trip. And, there's always the possibility that he may not reach the starting line next year: injury is always a risk.

If we look at the above table in rank order, we see what look to me are anomalies.

The Timeform values in orange are (in my opinion) undervalues; and those in blue are overvalues.
Long Run won his Gold Cup when all his serious rivals - however good they may once have been - were all in serious decline, and that he never repeated that GC win - despite remaining a top grade 1 horse - suggests in 2011 he "got lucky", and he certainly didn't put in a better performance that day than when Denman won in 2008 beating a peak Kauto Star!  The same with Bobs Worth; how can he possibly have run to 176 when he won, but he couldn't beat Lord Windermere the following year when that horse recorded just 161?  One horse who I think had been underrated significantly, is Coneygre - he put in a phenomenal performance when winning the GC in 2015 as a novice chaser.

Friday 17 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - Day 4 (Friday)

What can I say? Yesterday was a day for the bookies, with none of the fav's winning. For the blog it started badly when Mighty Potter struggled to pick-up the pace over the final couple of fences in the opening race; he ran to his best, but that wasn't good enough.  The Pertemps hurdle was a blanket finish, and the selection The Changing Man stayed on but just missed out on a place.  Like many, I thought Shishkin was unbeatable in the Ryanair, but he wasn't placed well by his jockey, and his jumping suffered. Fair play to Envoi Allen, he's won the Bumper, the Ballymore, and now the Ryanair Chase. The final nail in my Festival coffin was Sire Du Berlais winning the Stayers' hurdle at 33/1 at the age of 11. Flooring Porter ran a brave ace, but he's 10lb below his best; and Klassical Dream just didn't want to race: very disappointing. Any hope of a confidence boost was snuffed out when Fugitif was beaten into 2nd on the run-in of the Plate having looked the winner jumping the last fence. I wasn't interested in the Mares race, and then in the Kim Muir, the selection Ballykeel was given every chance but just wasn't good enough.

Just the one winner - El Fabiolo in the Arkle - posted this week, it has been disappointing.

1:30pm Triumph Hurdle over 2-miles
Unbelievably, Willie Mullins trains the top-4 in the betting: Lossiemouth, Blood Destiny, Gala Marceau, and Zenta. With the stable jockey Townend on Lossiemouth, that's the fav and probably the most likely winner. A no bet race for me.

2:10pm County handicap Hurdle over 2-miles
Very competitive race, and one won by Mullins 6 times. He has 4 entries, including the well fancied Hunters Yarn but this looks a big ask for the 6yo who is very lightly race. The one I like is Winter Fog who loves these big-field handicaps, ran 4th in the Pertemps Final last year, joined Willie Mullins in December and immediately won a h'cap hurdle over 2-miles. Gordon Elliott has 2 runners, and his Pied Piper is a decent hurdler but OR154 looks a tough mark to win from. Gavin Cromwell has just Path D'Oroux and this one looked destined for the "Supreme" when winning his debut hurdle in October, as he was then sent for a couple of Grade 1's. Not quite than level, he won LTO when dropped in grade and his OR141 mark looks fair. 

2:50pm Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle over 3-miles
When you look at the odds of past winners, probably the first horse to strike off the list is the fav. You can make a case for more than a few in this, so let's just try with one: Gordon Elliott's Favori De Champdou.  Yes, he's an 8yo but he's had very little racing and he looked decent when winning a Grade-2 at Xmas. Elliott knows his hurdlers, especially at 3-miles, and while he also has Three Card Brag in this race, that horse needs to prove his stamina today. 
For me, Favori De Champdou looks to hold a fair chance in this race.

3:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup over 3 miles & 2 furlongs & 70yards
This time last year, I posted up A Plus Tard to win the Gold Cup, and he duly did capping a great week. He's not had the best of time in the past year, running only once and being pulled-up, but he did look outstanding last year, and nothing has come close to that level in the intervening period. What's more, trainer Henry de Bromhead is in great form and there's no reason to doubt that if A Plus Tard is here, then he's in good form too. The talking horse is the short-priced fav, Galopin Des Champs who fell at the final fence here last year when looking likely to easily win the "Turners" over 2m4f.  He's won 3 races since then, proven he stays 3-miles LTO, and looks the one to beat. Bravemansgame has done nothing wrong this season, and in many a year he would be the fav today after winning the King George at Kempton in good style LTO. With Paul Nicholls having his horses running well this week, he looks the value in the betting market as, when you look at the remainder of the runners, there is nothing much else in the race that you can consider to be a potential winner. Noble Yeats may sneak 3rd, but he really should not be winning this race.
I already have an antepost wager on Protektorat, but that looks a poor wager now, and if I had to have a wager it would be an eachway punt on Bravemansgame, but I expect the fav Galopin Des Champs to win, and hope A Plus Tard runs a gallant race.
That's it from me for today, and I will review the results over the coming couple of weeks in more depth. 

Thursday 16 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - Day 3 (Thursday)

Not a great day yesterday. I had an antepost wager on Impaire Et Passe at 10/1, but it was in the "Supreme" hurdle and not the "Ballymore"; just as I had an antepost wager on the Supreme winner Marine Nationale at 25/1, but it was in the Ballymore - right horses, wrong races! Hats off to The Real Whacker winning the "Broadway" chase from the front, but in doing so he beat Gerri Colombe into 2nd (he probably should have been in the NH Chase over 3m6f); while my antepost on Thyme Hill was well off target. In the Coral Cup h'cap hurdle, Fil Dor didn't enjoy the experience at all and dropped-out mid-race. Like a lot of people, I was sucked into the Edwardstone camp for the QMCC, but the writing was on the wall early, and Energumene has now won this prestigious race twice without having a decent blow. I made no selection in the Grand Annual, but Thyme White (on my shortlist) was going well when falling 2-out. 

So, we go into the third day with Mighty Potter needing to win the "Turners" to complete a £10 win double with Arkle winner El Fabiolo.

1:30pm Turners Novice Chase over 2m4f
Based on the form this season, Mighty Potter looks much the best horse in this line-up. The only chink in his form is his failure to complete in the Supreme Hurdle last season. His rivals today don't look good enough to beat him unless Mighty Potter underperforms. The British-trained Balco Coastal (Henderson) and Stage Star (Nicholls) may be the ones to give the fav most trouble. Stage Star ran a tremendous race here on Trials Day in January, but before that you would not have considered him capable of winning this race, and I think he needs to find another 10lb of improvement. I like Balco Coastal, as he won a decent handicap at Kempton on his 2nd chase race, and was just outstayed by Gerri Colombe LTO, and that form looks strong. He would be my eachway selection at 12/1. The Irish trained Appreciate It and Banbridge both don't look good enough. 

2:10pm Pertemps Final handicap hurdle over 3-miles
What a cracking race this is, and we found the winner at 25/1 last year. It takes an exception horse to win this race with more than 11st to carry, but this years' race looks weaker than usual, so we may get a strong show from Walking On Air on 11:5 who was a late qualifier winning LTO in Feb. However, my money is on The Changing Man a 6yo who is improving with every run, travels strong and stays 3-mile well, and he's won on soft ground - he's 25/1 with Bet365, and 22's elsewhere (6-places, 5th odds).
Selection: THE CHANGING MAN - £5 eachway @ 25/1 (6-places, 5th odds a place)

2:50pm Ryanair Chase over 2m5f
This should be a shoo-in for Shishkin, as he is easily the best of these.  Shishkin is probably the the equal of Energumene even now after his health problems, and I cannot see anything coming close. All my antepost doubles etc involving the horse have gone down (although I did post on 31Dec that readers should include him in doubles & trebles as he was available at odds of 8/1 for the Ryanair Chase) so, what can follow him home? I think it will be Fury Road and Envoi Allen who will battle it out for 2nd & 3rd; and I shall have a couple of straight-forecasts with Shishkin to win and that pair to be 2nd.  Both stay the trip and more, but this trip is probably their best; and both have run well at the Festival in previous years.

3:30pm Stayers' Hurdle over 3-miles
This years race is a tricky affair. Most of the trials during the season have been indifferent races, always excuses for one horse or another. Flooring Porter has won this race for the past couple of years, and readers of the blog know that - we've been on him both times! However, in the run-up to winning those races he'd posted performances at around 160 (he's rated OR164), and this season he's run a couple of poor efforts below 150. If Gavin Cromwell has brought him here in top-form, he will prove tough to beat. Teahupoo has his ground, and showed when winning the Hatton's Grace (Honeysuckle was 3rd) that he's a high-class 3-miler. Come the race, the weather forecast is heavy rain this afternoon, which is reminiscent of when Klassical Dream won the Supreme in 2019, so he should cope today, and he goes well off a long break.  If there's one trainer who can bring a horse to win a race like this off a long break, it's Mullins, so I'm very interested in this one at odds of 9/1 (with Bet365, 4-places 5th odds).  I've already advised an eachway antepost wager on French-trained Gold Tweet, and I won't put anyone off having and eachway punt on him at 11/1 (Bet365), although I cannot see him winning today. I don't think Blazing Khal is good enough on form to be the 2nd-fav, and Home By The Lee found nothing when asked in this race last year. For me, the winner is one of Flooring Porter, Teahupoo and Klassical Dream, and though it pains me to do it, at the odds and based on this season's form, I'm advising an eachway wager on Klassical Dream to be the recipient of some Mullins magic, with a "saver" on Flooring Porter, just in case.
Selection: KLASSICAL DREAM - £5 eachway @ 9/1 (Bet365, 4-places, 5th odds)
plus: FLOORING PORTER - £3 win @ 11/2 (available generally)

4:10pm Plate handicap chase 2m4f & 127yds
This looks a difficult race to fathom, especially as the weather looks awful this afternoon, heavy rain. This can go to a rank outsider, but the winner is usually well supported in the market. I was very impressed by both Il Ridoto and Fugitif when they battled-out the finish over C&D on Trials Day here in January, and of the pair I think Fugitif looks primed to run well in this race and odds of 10/1 (Bet365, 6-places, 5th odds) look fair; but I can't recommend a wager in what looks a competitive race.  

I'm going to give the Mares hurdle a miss, and go straight to the:
5:30pm Kim Muir (amateur riders) h'cap chase over 3m2f
Jockeyship is very important in this race, and any horse ridden by JJ Codd (who has won this 4 times) has to be considered. As such, Duboyne trained by Gordon Elliott and recently 2nd in the Thyestes Chase in Ireland is one to note. Also note Angels Dawn who was fav for the Grand National Trial in Ireland LTO but unseated his rider mid-race when going well. Different jockey today, and he can go well in this race. I also like the other Elliott-trained runner, Ballykeel who has been aimed at this race for some time. He has a decent jockey on board as Mr Swan has won 10 races for Elliott and odds of 25/1 (6-places, 5th odds) or 33/1 (PaddyPower, 5-places, 5th odds) look fair. There will not be many finish this race I reckon, and I'm happy to take the 33/1, for a small wager.
Selection: BALLYKEEL - £5 eachway @ 33/1 (PaddyPower, 5-places, 5th odds)

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - Day 2 (Wednesday)

How did we do on the opening day?
In the Supreme Hurdle, the selection Il Etait Temps lacked mid-race pace, and looked a horse that probably should have run in the Ballymore over 2m4f - but he may not even have been good enough for that. Readers of the blog were in clover after the Arkle Novices Chase when El Fabiolo - advised at 11/2 in January - romped home a good winner. We were brought back down to earth in the Ultima Handicap, with main selection The Big Breakaway running no sort of race, and Tea Clipper running 6th, just out of the places. There was 40/1 available on Tea Clipper and upto 8-places available with some bookies. In the Champion Hurdle, there was no stopping Constitution Hill, who looks the best since Istabraq.  The speculative ew wager on I Like To Move It didn't come off as he tried to make-all - what on earth was Sam Twiston-Davies thinking? The Mares' Hurdle turned out to be one of the races of the day with Honeysuckle rekindling her best form - it's been a year of triumph and tragedy for Trainer de Bromhead. I didn't think she'd do it, so glad I passed on that race. There was no selection advised in the Junvenile Handicap hurdle. Onto the last race of the day, the NH Chase, and what can I say? The selection Mahler Mission looked home & hosed 3-out, but it soon became clear that he was fading will little left in the tank as he approached the 2nd-last fence, where he duly fell. The amateur jky just pushed-on too early trying to make ground as they went up the hill (spectacular jump at the top of the hill), and that was a schoolboy error. I'm not sure if he'd have held off Gaillard Du Mesnil on the run-in, but it would have been close.
We need Mighty Potter to win the "Turners" on Thursday and complete the double started by El Fabiolo to recoup this days losses.

Onto Wednesday, and I've already reviewed the main runners in the races over the past couple of weeks, so I won't repeat those notes here; but they are available if you scroll back through the blog entries.
Remember: there will be NO Selections posted on this blog at odds of under 9/4. 
If I think the fav will be the most likely winner, and it's odds are under 9/4, I will say so, but I will not use that race as a measure of success when assessing results at the end of the week.

1:30pm Ballymore Novices' Hurdle over 2m5f
A race that usually produces a top-class field, although some recent winners haven't progressed as well as expected. I had an antepost wager on the fav Impaire Et Passe, but in the "Supreme" and not in this race.  This will be only his 3rd hurdle race, and it will be a stamina test for him. As such, I don't think he's value at odds of 7/4. I've not been convinced that Hermes Allen is good enough to win a race of this quality, and his position in the betting is likely due to him being a confirmed runner for some time.  Now we have the declared runners, we know what Mullins is sending along with the fav, and I'm more impressed with the form of Gaelic Warrior than Champ Kiely, and the 5yo Ho My Lord could be anything.  If push comes to shove, I'd have a wager on Gaelic Warrior @ 5/1; but I'm sitting this race out.

2:10pm Brown Advisory (Broadway) Novices Chase over 3-mile
This looks like being a really good race, and it could produce a future Gold Cup winner.  I posted Thyme Hill as my antepost selection early following his win at Kempton, mainly as he ticked a lot of boxes and this was his declared target race. A fair few "stats" guru's consider the 9yo to be one to avoid, we shall have to see. This 3-mile trip[ should bring about more improvement in the fav Gerri Colombe, and he is a worthy fav, if a bit short at odds of 6/4. When watching the "Dipper" at Cheltenham on 01Jan, I was more impressed with Thunder Rock than The Real Whacker, and I can see the places being reversed over this 3-mile trip. If Thunder Rock repeats his LTO run behind Gerri Colombe, that should be good enough for him to be 3rd.  The enigma in the race is Sir Gerhard: he's only had the one race over fences and that was an inadequate test, we learned nothing from it. This race has probably come too soon for him. The mare Galia Des Liteaux could be interesting: she was disappointing when behind Thyme Hill at Kempton, but bounced back from that LTO. She looks a good eachway wager if you are not already involved. I'm already committed to Thyme Hill, but I think the most likely winner is the fav Gerri Colombe 

2:50pm Coral Cup (handicap) Hurdle over 2m5f
With 26 runners and 8/1 joint-fav's, this race is a minefield for the punter. You can follow the main selections, or go a bit left-field for a small eachway wager; and that's my preferred way to go. I will be honest, I've not had the time to analyse the field for this as I would a chase handicap, as the 2m5f trip is a bit of an odd one. There's only been 3 winners of this race in the past 10 years that's carried under 11st and, as the lowest weight carried this year is 10st 11lb, carrying a big weight may not be a problem. Gordon Elliott has had a few winners of this race, and at massive odds too, and that he runs Fil Dor in this is interesting. Until the Dublin Festival he was a live "Arkle" candidate, but not being a good enough chaser saw him switched back to hurdles (he was 2nd in the Triumph Hurdle last year), and he duly won a Grade 3 hurdle beating multiple Grade 1 winner Sharjah in the process. He may have 12st in this race, but he's a class horse with a decent 5lb claimer in the saddle, and we know he's race-fit and in form.
Advised wager:
FIL DOR - £5 ew @ 14/1 (Paddy Power, 6-places, 5th odds a place)

3:30 Queen Mother Champion Chase over 2-miles
A high-class field, and the only one missing from the line-up is Shishkin (goes for the Ryanair Chase on Thursday).  Readers of the blog pocketed a big win from the success in this race by Energumene, but he has a worthy opponent in Edwardstone who had the beating of him when they met LTO. Unfortunately, they beat each other LTO by ignoring the eventual winner of the race, Editeur De Gite. That won't be allowed to happen again, and I expect Edwardstone to come home the winner: but there's no value in the betting, so no advised wager from me in this race.

I'm going to ignore the Cross-Country Chase at 4:10pm, ass it isn't my sort of race at all. The same with the Champion Bumper that closes the day's racing. Instead, I shall take a look at the:-

4:40pm Grand Annual (Handicap) Chase over 2-miles
This race is famous for it's gambles and it is usually run at a fierce pace.  The subject of last years' gamble was Andy Dufresne who ran 2nd. He is well fancied this year too, but I feel he may not be able to repeat & beat that effort. The Mullins-trained Dads Lad has been aimed at this race since winning here over C&D in October, and my only worry is that he's been off the track since 13Nov; but Mullins is well capable of winning a race here. Another that looks to have been prepared for this race is Thyme White who won off a long break at Ascot in October, and looks well handicapped in this race. Overall, this looks too tricky, and I'm just clutching at straws in this race. So I'm going to pass.

Monday 13 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - Day 1 (Tuesday)

This is what we've been waiting for - the 2023 Cheltenham Festival.
As always, some simple advice, and the two main things to remember about the Festival are 
1) that 55% of all the races are won by a last-time-out (LTO) winner (from a representation of about 15% of all the runners); and 
2) very few races are won by horses which last ran over 84-days (12 weeks) ago - basically, before 26th December 2021. If you stick to these two factors you may miss the odd winner, but you will avoid 95% of the losing horses! 
Some of the fields for the races look a bit on the small side, only 7 runners in the Champion Hurdle, but there are  with some very open events presenting some wagering opportunities. Due to multiple entries, I've had a few wagers cancelled, and the impact of recent rain has resulted in a "soft ground" opening day. Just how soft the ground will be, and what (if any) affect it will have, we won't know until after the first couple of races. 
I've already reviewed the main runners in the races over the past couple of weeks, so i won't repeat those notes here; but they are available of you scroll back through the blog entries.
Remember: there will be NO Selections posted on this blog at odds of under 9/4. 
Last year, I said Honeysuckle was near unbeatable in the Champion Hurdle, and I did not recommend a wager as her odds were 8/11 and she duly won.  I think the same of Constitution Hill this year, but I will not be recommending a wager as his odds are long odds-on.

1:30pm Supreme Novices Hurdle over 2m & 87yds
I'm not the best judge of novice hurdlers, and this year the "supreme" has an open look about it following the odd performance - and failure - of Facile Vega LTO. You can either look at that run as a warning that the horse has a problem and swerve, or that you have been given an opportunity to wager on a horse that should be odds-on at odds around 5/2.  Marine Nationale hasn't run since 04Dec; Inthepocket is held by my selection; Tahmuras does not look good enough. The lightly raced High Definition and Diverge are both capable of considerable improvement on what we've seen to date, but will they improve? I've recommended an antepost wager on Il Etait Temps @ 9/2 (there is some 5/1 available) as his form is solid; and I'm sticking with the antepost investment.

2:10pm Arkle Novices Chase over a trip 21yds short of 2-miles 
This looks to be a match between Jonbon and El Fabiolo. They were very closely matched as novice hurdlers last season, and there won't be much between them in this race. It is interesting that Mullins (trainer of El Fabiolo) also has Dysart Dynamo and Saint Roi in the race, but they both have the potential to win this if they get their act together: Dysart Dynamo needs to settle, and Saint Roi needs to improve his jumping at speed. I've recommended antepost wagers on El Fabiolo at odds of 11/2, 9/2 and 9/4 and I'm sticking with him. 

2:50pm Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f
Always a competitive race run at a strong pace. Winners need to stay the trip: 13 of the last 15 winners had won over 3-mile or more before winning this race. The two that didn't win at 3-miles before winning this were (in 2015) The Druid's Nephew, and (in 2011) Bensalem - but both had run exceptional races in defeat at trips of 3-mile, or thereabouts. 
I've already looked at this race in some depth at the weekend, and my shortlist is:-
The Big Breakaway has stamina to burn, and with his best runs on soft ground, and being a prominent runner, this 8yo goes on the shortlist. 
Into Overdrive won the 3-mile Rowland Meyrick on Boxing Day, and that was his 5th win in 6 races, and he's not stopped improving. The form of that race was franked by Sounds Russian who ran 2nd in the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day. He won't want it too soft, but he's a prominent runner, and this 8yo goes on the shortlist. 
Tea Clipper was 4th in this race last year, just beating Our Power, and they met again at Ascot over 3-miles in October when Tea Clipper was 3rd behind Our Power. They meet on 'levels' in this race, which puts Tea Clipper 9lb better-off, and I reckon Tea Clipper will easily beat Our Power in this race. 
The novice Monbeg Genius has won his last 3 races and is clearly on the upgrade; guaranteed a run should he go to post, he goes on the shortlist.
Top Ville Ben was a class horse 4 seasons ago (won the Rowland Meyrick off OR154) and ran his best race in a long time LTO when 3rd in Ireland over an inadequate 2m5f. He is the sort who could put in an eye-catching run, and goes on the shortlist despite being 11yo. 
I'm against the fav Corach Rambler (who won this last year) as he's not raced since finishing 4th in the Coral Gold Cup (Hennessey) and he's not a horse that goes well fresh (he ran at Carlisle 28-days before his last run).
Previous form in this race is usually a plus, so Tea Clipper gets a vote as I think if the ground is too soft for him he won't run. And The Big Breakaway also gets a vote as he has a touch of class. There are some great offers online, with 6-places eachway available, and as one of my early wagers has been refunded (NRNB) I'm recommending placing that on The Big Breakaway.  
THE BIG BREAKAWAY - £5 eachway @ 18/1 
(6-places, 5th odds a place William Hill & Paddy Power)

3:30pm Champion Hurdle over 2m & 87yds
The feature race of the day and a disappointing 7 runners go to post as the hot-fav Constitution Hill looks near unbeatable. I would not underestimate State Man or I Like To Move It, and they are both capable of improved performances on what we've seen to date. I shall personally be having a Straight-Forecast wager on Constitution Hill to beat I Like To move It, but I can't recommend this as a wager.

4:10pm Mares' Hurdle over 2m3f & 200yds
This race looks a cracker on paper with ex-Champion Hurdler Honeysuckle meeting last years' winner Marie's Rock, and last years' Mares' Novices winner Love Envoi. Throw-in another ex-Champion hurdler in Epatante and we have one of the races of the Festival to savour.
On form this season, you have to favour Marie's Rock as her win here on 1st January suggested that she's better than her OR153 rating. Honeysuckle, on the other hand, appears to be on retrograde this season, and I'm struggling to convince myself that she will be in the 1st-3 home. Nicky Henderson apparently planned to enter Epatante in the Champion Hurdle (even though he sends Constitution Hill for that race) and she looks the more likely to trouble Marie's Rock. The form of Love Envoi, whilst high class, is tricky to measure but I don't think she's capable of beating Marie's Rock.
Overall, I think Marie's Rock is the most likely winner of the race, however at odds of only 5/2 in such a competitive race on paper, I don't think that's a value wager.

4:50pm Juvenile Handicap Hurdle over 2m & 87yds
This race looks tricky. Formlines provide nothing much to go on, and trainer preparation is the key.  If I were going to have a wager, it would be on something like Perseus Way who looks better than OR132, or Mr Freedom sent by another Sussex-based trainer Sheena West - who would not send a horse to the Festival unless she knew it had a chance.   This is a no-bet race for me.

5:30pm National Hunt (NH) Novices Chase (amateur riders) over 3m 5f & 201yds
Just 10 runners go to post, which is more than last year (when just 6 ran) but not as many as in 2021 or the years before that. This race invariably goes to the highest (or near highest) rating, so it pays to take note of the official ratings. Highest is Gaillard Du Mesnil on OR155, which is about right for him when he's at his very best. He was 3rd in the "Broadway" over 3-miles last year, and I don't think he's improved for the extra year of racing - and I just don't think that's good enough to win this race. Chemical Energy ran a stinker LTO, so needs to recover the form of his win here in October over 3-miles. Readers of the blog are already on Mahler Mission and I'm happy that this horse will give us a good run, and this marathon trip should suit him well as he looks a dour stayer. I thought his run LTO more than entitled him to a place in the line-up, and I'm expecting a bold show. Minella Crooner was easily btn over 3-miles on 08Feb by an OR140 rated chaser, which does not auger well for him. This trip should hold no fears for Mr Coffey, who was 2nd in the "Kim Muir" handicap chase last year over 3m2f, but he only ran off OR137 then and I just don't think he is good enough. Tenzing is more interesting as he only ran once as a hurdler when winning over 3-miles. He's had 3 chases this season, and LTO was 2nd to the more experienced Mahler Mission, and he was well fancied that day.  You would not have expected him to run here, but he is which suggests that there is a lot more to come than we've seen so far.  I've recommended antepost wagers on Mahler Mission and I'm sticking with him.

Saturday 11 March 2023

The final countdown to the Cheltenham Festival - part 5

Cheltenham Festival Antepost Wagers: already advised

Supreme Hurdle:  IL ETAIT TEMPS - £10 win @ 9/2 (NRNB)
Supreme Hurdle: Impaire Et Passe - £5 win @ 10/1 (Coral or Labrokes)
Arkle: MIGHTY POTTER - £5 win @ 25/1 (Paddy Power) LOST 
Arkle: EL FABIOLO - £5 win @ 11/2 (Bet365)
Arkle: EL FABIOLO - £5 win @ 9/2 (William Hill, NRNB)
Ultima: TEA CLIPPER - £5 ew NRNB @ 16/1 (available generally, 5-places 5th odds)
Champion Hurdle: I LIKE TO MOVE IT - £5 ew @ 16/1 (NRNB) with Paddy Power & William Hill
NH Chase: MAHLER MISSION - £10 win @ 9/1 (Corals)
Arkle: El Fabiolo @ 9/4 & Turners: Mighty Potter @ 3/1 : £10 win double

Ballymore Hurdle: Marine Nationale - £5 win @ 25/1 (Skybet or, Ladbrokes & Coral)
Broadway Chase: Thyme Hill - £5 win @ 8/1 (Bet365 or Skybet)
Broadway Chase: Thyme Hill - £5 win @ 7/1 (William Hill, NRNB)

Turners Nov Ch: MIGHTY POTTER - £10 win @ 7/2 (Paddy Power)
Stayers' Hurdle: GOLD TWEET - £5 ew @ 12/1 (NRNB)

These horses are combined in 4 x £5 win trebles: £20 staked
NH Chase: Mahler Mission & Churchstonewarrior / Broadway: Gerri Colombe & Thyme Hill / 
Ryanair: Shishkin (banker) 
1) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Gerri Colombe @ 9/4 plus Churchstonewarrior @ 6/1
2) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Thyme Hill @ 5/1 plus Churchstonewarrior @ 6/1
3) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Gerri Colombe @ 9/4 plus Mahler Mission @ 8/1
4) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Thyme Hill @ 5/1 plus Mahler Mission @ 8/1

Cheltenham Gold Cup: PROTEKTORAT - £15 win @ 9/1 (paddy Power or Skybet)

Total Staked to Date: £140 (Note: £20 returned NRNB)

The 5-day declarations for the 3rd day of the Festival came out yesterday (Friday 10th) and in the "Turners" there were no real surprises. There has been some money for Balco Coastal who is now 11/1 (from 14's). In the Ryanair, French Dynamite is now available at 16/1 (NRNB) with some and he's now interesting as an ew wager for a place.

At the time of writing (Saturday morning) the Triumph Hurdle, County (h'cap) Hurdle, and Albert Bartlett hurdle have too many entries to consider the form properly, especially as the County and AB can - and have - been won by rank outsiders. Regards the Gold Cup, there's nothing much that I can add that your haven't already read somewhere else. 
The race revolves around Galopin Des Champs, and if he's as good as his reputation suggests then he's unbeatable. However, the Gold Cup trip is 510yds longer than the 3-miles he won over at Leopardstown LTO, and much of that 510yds is uphill - and many a "good thing" has come unstuck on that run-in. His current best odds of 15/8 (William Hill) don't look value to me, not when last years winner A Plus Tard (who had less question-marks) went off at 3/1. 
What of the others? If the ground turns soft (unlikely) then you may see Bravemansgame pulled-out, and if he does run, I think he has as good a chance at the the fav of winning, which make his odds of 13/2 look value. 
Last years winner A Plus Tard cannot be ignored, despite and indifferent run at Haydock last autumn, you have to respect his trainer Henry de  Bromhead who managed to prepare the 2021 Gold Cup winner Minella Indo to run 2nd last year - also after an indifferent season. Winning the Gold Cup takes a supreme effort, and the race can make or break a horse. For example, Minella Rocco (2nd in 2017) was never the same horse again, ditto Might Bite (2nd in 2018), and Santini (2nd in 2019).  This reminds me of a the words of a respected handicapper: "the winner can have the easiest race". In 2019, Al Boum Photo won the Gold Cup, and returned the following year in 2020 to win again off just one preparatory race. As such, I fully expect A Plus Tard to run well up to his known ability, and if he runs within 10lb of his run last year he will take some beating.  Back in January, I didn't think we'd see A Plus Tard run again this season, but right now I wish I'd taken the 12/1 that was available at the time, and I can see him going-off as the 5/1 2nd-fav. 
The 2022 Grand National winner Noble Yeats is worthy of a place in the race, but just as Grand National winners Hedgehunter (2005) ran 2nd in the 2006 Gold Cup, and Mon Mome (2009) ran 3rd in the 2010 Gold Cup, and Neptune Collonges (2012) was no better than 3rd in the 2008 Gold Cup (from 4 attempts) I cannot see this horse winning next week. Yes, he will be staying-on strong in the final half-mile, but he will likely be starting his run from maybe 30-lengths behind the leader after being outpaced mid-race. I can see him being 3rd or 4th. 
The 8yo Stattler, who won the NH Chase over 3m6f here last year, hasn't shown form that suggests he can win this race, as he needs to find 10lb on what he's shown already, and that's a big ask. I'm not saying he can't win - Lord Windermere did in 2014 and he had a similar profile - but he will need the race to fall apart (like it did in 2014), and a giant slug of luck.
Conflated isn't good enough, and needs a slow-run race to be in with a chance, but if it's slow run then he will have Noble Yeats, A Plus Tard, and Stattler to contend with, as well as the fav Golopin De Champs.  
Ahoy Senor is more interesting, as the trip should suit him well.  But his jumping is indifferent, and his performances are consistent but not good enough - so he needs all the better horses to run poorly to be in with a shout. But with a bit of luck he could nick 4th or even 3rd.
When Ahoy Senor won LTO, the 8yo Protektorat who went off the fav for that race ran an absolute stinker, and we have to wonder if he was flattered by winning the Betfair Chase when A Plus Tard pulled-up. I thought he was the real-deal in January, hence putting him up as a selection in the antepost portfolio; but he was 3rd in this last year and his trainer Dan Skelton reckons he's a stronger horse this year, so he could again run into a place. However, being realistic I cannot see him winning this. 
You can make a case - if you want to - for the likes of Minella Indo, Sounds Russian, and Hewick coming in 3rd or 4th, but realistically they don't tick enough boxes in a race which invariably takes no prisoners.  If there is any chink in a horse, it will be exposed, and I can see there being only 6 or 7 still in the race as they jump the 3rd-last fence, and the remainder will have thrown-in the towel and pulled-up: but which will be the seven? 
At this time, I'm looking at Bravemansgame and A Plus Tard, but perhaps I'm clutching at straws.

Ultima H'cap Chase (update)
Always a competitive race run at a strong pace. Winners need to stay the trip: 13 of the last 15 winners had won over 3-mile or more before winning this race. The 2015 winner The Druid's Nephew had won over 2m7f &  129yds at Huntingdon; and 2011 winner Bensalem had run 2nd to Diamond Harry (subsequent 2010 Hennessey GC winner off OR156) over 2m7f & 86yds at Newbury, and had then fallen in this race in 2010 when looking the winner, then campaigned over hurdles to protect his chase rating.
Those that fail the 3-mile test are: Fanion D'Estruval; Adamantly Chosen; I Am Maximus; Fastorslow; The Goffer; Tea Clipper; Nassalam; Karl Philippe

Happygolucky, 2nd in this race in 2021, meets this criteria, but whether he retains his ability after a long injury break is taken on trust. Remastered also ticks the box on stamina but, on a career-high rating at 10yo, has age against him. The Big Breakaway has stamina to burn, and with his best runs on soft ground, and being a prominent runner, this 8yo goes on the shortlist. Threeunderthrufive was a selection of mine for this last year, but went for the "Broadway" instead (ran 6th of 9); his form this season has not been the same. Our Power is an improving 8yo, but he's running off 9lb higher than when 5th last year, and that may be too much. Into Overdrive won the 3-mile Rowland Meyrick on Boxing Day, and that was his 5th win in 6 races, and he's not stopped improving. The form of that race was franked by Sounds Russian who ran 2nd in the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day. He won't want it too soft, but he's a prominent runner, and this 8yo goes on the shortlist. Corach Rambler won this last year but he's not raced since 4th in the Coral Gold Cup (Hennessey) and he's not a horse that goes well fresh. Cloudy Glen will need a career-best to win this off OR145, but it's likely that he won't be far away as he ran 2nd in the Kim Muir in 2021. Another interesting candidate is Farinet who won the Welsh National Trial over 3-mile at Chepstow in December. The extra distance found him out here on New Years' Day but he looks on a fair mark of OR142. Death Duty stayed on into 6th in this race last year off OR144, which came off the back of winning the National Trial at Punchestown. He ran 2nd in that race last month and runs off OR141 in the Ultima so he has place chances. Top Ville Ben was a class horse 4 seasons ago (won the Rowland Meyrick off OR154) and ran his best race in a long time LTO when 3rd in Ireland over an inadequate 2m5f. He is the sort who could put in an eye-catching run, and goes on the shortlist despite being 11yo. The novice Monbeg Genius has won his last 3 races and is clearly on the upgrade; guaranteed a run should he go to post, he goes on the shortlist.

Others to note from the "non 3-mile winners":-
The Goffer fails the 3-mile test, but he's improving and a LTO winner trained by Gordon Elliott.
Tea Clipper was 4th in this race last year, just beating Our Power, and they met again at Ascot over 3-miles in October when Tea Clipper was 3rd behind Our Power. They meet on 'levels' in this race, which puts Tea Clipper 9lb better-off, and I reckon Tea Clipper will easily beat Our Power in this race. 

The Big Breakaway @ 16/1 (Skybet) - I really like the chances of this one
Into Overdrive @ 8/1 - odds are too short
Farinet @ 40/1 (available generally) at these odds you have to be on
Monbeg Genius @ 14/1
Tea Clipper - was advised at 16's; so 20/1 with William Hill NRNB looks value

The Big Breakaway - £5 eachway @ 16/1 (NRNB 5-places 5th odds Skybet)
Farinet - £5 eachway @ 40/1 (NRNB 5-places 5th odds Bet365)

Friday 10 March 2023

The final countdown to the Cheltenham Festival - part 4

Cheltenham Festival Antepost Wagers: already advised

Supreme Hurdle:  IL ETAIT TEMPS - £10 win @ 9/2 (NRNB)
Supreme Hurdle: Impaire Et Passe - £5 win @ 10/1 (Coral or Labrokes)
Arkle: MIGHTY POTTER - £5 win @ 25/1 (Paddy Power) LOST 
Arkle: EL FABIOLO - £5 win @ 11/2 (Bet365)
Arkle: EL FABIOLO - £5 win @ 9/2 (William Hill, NRNB)
Ultima: TEA CLIPPER - £5 ew NRNB @ 16/1 (available generally, 5-places 5th odds)
Champion Hurdle: I LIKE TO MOVE IT - £5 ew @ 16/1 (NRNB) with Paddy Power & William Hill
NH Chase: MAHLER MISSION - £10 win @ 9/1 (Corals)
Arkle: El Fabiolo @ 9/4 & Turners: Mighty Potter @ 3/1 : £10 win double

Ballymore Hurdle: Marine Nationale - £5 win @ 25/1 (Skybet or, Ladbrokes & Coral)
Broadway Chase: Thyme Hill - £5 win @ 8/1 (Bet365 or Skybet)
Broadway Chase: Thyme Hill - £5 win @ 7/1 (William Hill, NRNB)

Turners Nov Ch: MIGHTY POTTER - £10 win @ 7/2 (Paddy Power)

These horses are combined in 4 x £5 win trebles: £20 staked
NH Chase: Mahler Mission & Churchstonewarrior / Broadway: Gerri Colombe & Thyme Hill / 
Ryanair: Shishkin (banker) 
1) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Gerri Colombe @ 9/4 plus Churchstonewarrior @ 6/1
2) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Thyme Hill @ 5/1 plus Churchstonewarrior @ 6/1
3) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Gerri Colombe @ 9/4 plus Mahler Mission @ 8/1
4) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Thyme Hill @ 5/1 plus Mahler Mission @ 8/1

Cheltenham Gold Cup: PROTEKTORAT - £15 win @ 9/1 (paddy Power or Skybet)

Total Staked to Date: £130 (Note: £20 returned NRNB)

We had the 5-day declarations for the 2nd day of the Festival yesterday (Thurs 9th) and the main impact on the portfolio is that Impaire Et Passe remains in the Ballymore Hurdle, and is almost certain to run in that race for which he's the 7/4 fav. This is a bit of a blow, as I think he'd go close in the Supreme Hurdle and we hold a 10/1 voucher on that race. Fingers crossed that Il Etait Temps runs for us in the Supreme.  Mullins has a stranglehold on the novice hurdles, and he probably has 4 potential winners of the Ballymore to choose from. Another odd declaration was Mighty Potter in the "Broadway" over 3-mile, because if he runs in this race then he wont be able to run in the "Turners" on Thursday, a race for which he's a strong fav to win.  There are a lot of double-entries in the "Broadway", and I expect this race to cut-up which could prove advantageous to Thunder Rock: I can't see him winning this but he could sneak 3rd. There are no surprises in the QM Champion Chase, but with only 9 declared (and likely all going to post) then it's "fingers crossed" that my long-odds trebles (see my blog of 31Dec) involving (QMCC) Nube Negra; (Ryanair) Shiskin & Conflated; (Stayers' Hurdle) Flooring Porter; and (Gold Cup) Stattler come to fruition. 

Onto Day-3, Thursday and the day starts with...
Turners Novice Chase (Grade 1) over 2m4f
With 14 horses standing their ground, this race is taking more shape than some others. It pays to have a horse that has some jumping experience at Graded level. There have been some absolutely top-class winners of this race, and the market is usually reflective of the chances of contenders. Mighty Potter heads the betting as the 5/4 fav, and there appears to be no chink in his armour, which is good for readers of the blog as we have him at 7/2 and in a double with the "Arkle" fav El Fabiolo. What can beat him? I will be surprised if any of the other Irish-trained entries can get close, although I will respect the chance of Sir Gerhard (who won the Ballymore hurdle last year) if he takes part. Pay attention to the "Broadway" chase on Wednesday, as if Gerri Colombe and Thunder Rock do well in that, it will give the form of Balco Coastal - who split them at Sandown LTO - a big boost. Another to keep an eye on is Stage Star, who won over this C&D in January with 12st pretty much making-all. He was well fancied for the Ballymore last year, but pulled-up; even so I'd say he has the potential to win a race like this.

Pertemps Final H'cap Hurdle over 3-miles
There's only 28 runners to consider, and a max of 24 can go to post, so rather than speculate I'm going straight into form assessment. Remember, I posted last years 25/1 winner Third Wind on the morning of the race! These 3-mile handicap hurdles take a certain type of horse to win, and strong form-lines can be overlooked. 

Ryanair Chase over 2m5f
Cheltenham experience is a must when seeking the winner of this race, and the betting is a good guide with 6 of the last 7 winners going off at odds no longer than 9/2. Readers of the blog will hopefully be cheering on Shishkin as he completes the final leg of a successful winning treble; he looks near unbeatable in this race based on his win LTO at Ascot.  He may not have many rivals to contend with, as Blue Lord will likely go for the QMCC; Conflated for the Gold Cup; and I will be surprised if Chancun Pour Soi runs. What will follow Shishkin home? Janadil was 2nd last year, but benefitted from the fall of Conflated 2-out. Fury Road just isn't quick enough when it matters; and I'm not sure about Envoi Allen - he could be 160+ or maybe he just made the most of an opportunity when winning at Dromore in November? I think French Dynamite is under-estimated here: he was just btn by Ga Law in the Paddy Power h'cap giving the winner 6lb; he clearly didn't stay 3-mile when running in the Grade 1 Savills Chase on 28Dec; and had he not been impeded LTO by the faller (Haut En Couleurs) I think he'd have btn Fakir D'oudairies - in which case he'd be 2nd fav for this race. Sure, Ga Law is improving, but so is French Dynamite and I think he is the better horse. By-the-bye, both of these horses are well-handicapped at the moment, and I'm not sure why they are not contesting one of the handicaps instead. Given that Shishkin is +10lb better than anything else in the race, it's pointless having an antepost wager for something destined (barring a cruel twist of fate) to run 2nd or 3rd. Better to wait until the day and play a straight forecast.

Stayers' Hurdle over 3-miles
This year we have one of the most open, and murkiest, Stayers' Hurdles since 2018. I know Lisnagar Oscar won at 50/1 in 2020 but let's be honest, that was a strange race which should have been won by Paisley Park who, both before and after the race, was the best staying hurdler around. We have 15 entries as of this afternoon, with a couple of supplemented runners: Gold Tweet was expected, but what is Mullins planning with entering Asterion Forlonge? I can only think Mullins is giving the owners of Asterion (who also own Shishkin) the opportunity to "enjoy" their Ryanair win by remaining in the paddock area after the presentation. As for Gold Tweet, do not under-estimate this horse: he comes here worthy of a place on merit. Current fav in what has been a very fluid betting market, is Blazing Khal who - to be frank - isn't worthy of the position based on beating Meet And Greet over 2m5f LTO. That was his 1st race in 14mths, so he may come on for it, or he may "bounce". Marie's Rock is untried at 3-mile, and I feel she may go for the Mares' Hurdle instead for which she has a great chance of holding onto her crown having won that race last year. Teahopoo needs the mud; he may have it, but it's more likely that by Thursday and running on fresh ground that he won't. Home By The Lee was easily beaten in this race last year, and I don't think he's improved since but that he's been flattered by some indifferent performances by his rivals. I admit Flooring Porter looked a sad shadow of himself LTO, but he's won from the front twice before in this race, and I feel if he runs on the day then he will be capable of a good effort. Klassical Dream is another who has been beaten when meeting the very best at this trip, and he had nothing more to give when 5th last year. Paisley Park at 11yo is a spent force. When 3rd last year in the 2m5f Coral Cup (h'cap) Hurdle, Ashdale Bob ran the race of his life; he looks capable of a bold bid if the ground isn't too soft, as I think on better ground he may have btn Home By The Lee LTO at Leopardstown over 3-miles. After Gold Tweet winning here in January, you cannot ignore the French-trained Henri Le Farceur, but he will come into this race off a break of 103 days which is a negative. He may have chased home Gold Tweet LTO, but it will take a career-best from the horse at 10yo for Dashel Drasher to win. I'm leaning towards Flooring Porter as he's done it twice before and he looks the only one capable of a 160+ performance if he comes right on the day. IF push come to shove, right now I'd be on one of the youngest horses in the race, who we know has winning form at Cheltenham and stays the trip: Gold Tweet. If he was trained at Lambourn he'd be the 7/2 fav for this race, yet there is plenty of 12/1 available NRNB.
Advised wager: GOLD TWEET - £5 eachway @ 12/1 (generally available, NRNB)

The day ends with a couple of handicaps; the Kim Muir over 3m2f, and the "Plate" over 2m4f & 127 yds, which I will hold off reviewing for now as there are too many entries in both races to consider. The  Mares' Novices Hurdle is not the sort of race I want to get involved in.

I will be back tomorrow with another instalment. 

Wednesday 8 March 2023

The final countdown to the Cheltenham Festival - part 3

The 5-days declarations for the opening day were posted at lunchtime today (Wed 08Mar) and there are a few non-runners in my antepost wagers. As expected, Mighty Potter is a NR for the Arkle as he's the fav for the "Turners" on Day-3; so that's £5 lost. Also in the Arkle, my eachway wagers on Boothill and Sir Gerhard are both NR's, but these wagers a NRNB so the stakes totalling £20 are refunded. The main wagers on Impaire Et Passe & Il Etait Temps (Supreme Hurdle), El Fabiolo (Arkle), and Mahler Mission & Churchstonewarrior (NH Chase) all all still "live".

Onto Day 2, and it starts with a couple of top novice races. Remember, this is a 4-day meeting with 28 races and you cannot possibly have an angle on every one.  Pick and choose your targets, and sometimes there isn't a wager worth having, like in the Champion Hurdle were unless you had a significant wager on Constitution Hill sometime last summer at odds of 2/1 then all you are looking for is finding the placed horses, and that can be tricky for very little reward.

Ballymore Hurdle over 2m5f
Possibly the most influential novice hurdle at the Festival, this still has an enormous number of entries and I'm not tempted to consider a wager until the weekend when we will know a) what is most likely to run, and b) the likely ground.  I'm not convinced that Hermes Allen (trained by Paul Nicholls) is good enough to win this, but Mullins has a hatful of horses to choose from - and he usually leaves it late to make his final choice for this race.

Old Brown Advisory Novices Chase (Broadway) over 3-miles & 80yds
I like this race, mainly as it takes some winning and the form is usually a good guide to finding the winner. This year we have a fav in Gerri Colombe who looks like he might not be outclassed were he in the Gold Cup on Friday.  He does have to test him stamina at this trip, but he looks more than capable. The 2nd fav, The Real Whacker, has won both his chase starts but the strength of the form in those races is debateable, and I think his odds could take a walk on the day. If you fancy his chances, then I would wait until the day of the race and leave your wager late.  Sir Gerhard holds an entry for this race, but I really can't see him running on what will be only his 2nd chase race, and the "Turners" (if he does run) is more suitable. As such, I think Thyme Hill could go off the 2nd-fav at around 7/2, and we know he stays the trip, jumps well, and handles the course - and readers are on him at an average of 15/2. Don't underestimate Stage Star (Nicholls) who should ensure a proper test of stamina , as will the consistent Thunder Rock. No further wagers in this race until the day.

Coral Cup (h'cap) Hurdle over 2m5f
At the time of writing there are still 87 entered, so expect a full compliment of starters in this race which has a maximum of 26 going to post.  I will hang on for a few days.

Queen Mother Champion Chase over 2-miles
This is being billed as another "match" as it was last year, only this time Energumene is meeting Edwardstone. Last year, readers of the blog were on Energumene at the extremely generous odds of 4/1 and scooped a massive win. This year the race does not offer the same value. To be honest, if Energumene runs his best form then there's not much between the leading pair. Their conqueror at Cheltenham in January was Editeur Du Gite, but will he be allowed to dominate the race again, I doubt it. One that could surprise them is Gentleman De Mee, but only if he improves another 7lb and I'm not sure he can. I can't see any value in this race, I think the betting has it just about right. 

Cross Country Chase over 3m6f
Another race that I don't think should be run at the Festival.

Grand Annual H'Cap Chase over 2-miles
This is a tricky race, and one which usually sparks a gamble or two in the market. I think the Mullins trained Saint Roi could be the gamble, as he's entered for the Arkle and was presumably aimed at the race, but isn't good enough - so he will end up in this race by default. Keep an eye on Riviere D'Etel trained by Gordon Elliott: he was well fancied for the Arkle last year, and has a touch of class about him, yet he's running off OR149.

Champion Bumper over 2-miles
Another race that I avoid.

Tuesday 7 March 2023

The final countdown to the Cheltenham Festival - part 2

Cheltenham Festival Antepost Wagers: already advised
Arkle: SIR GERHARD - £5 ew NRNB @ 14/1 (Bet365 & PaddyPower)
Ultima: TEA CLIPPER - £5 ew NRNB @ 16/1 (available generally, 5-places 5th odds)

These horses are combined in 4 x £5 win trebles: £20 staked
1) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Gerri Colombe @ 9/4 plus Churchstonewarrior @ 6/1
2) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Thyme Hill @ 5/1 plus Churchstonewarrior @ 6/1
3) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Gerri Colombe @ 9/4 plus Mahler Mission @ 8/1
4) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Thyme Hill @ 5/1 plus Mahler Mission @ 8/1

Supreme Hurdle:  IL ETAIT TEMPS - £10 win @ 9/2 (NRNB)
Arkle: BOOTHILL - £5 eachway @ 40/1 (NRNB - Skybet & Paddy Power)
NH Chase: MAHLER MISSION - £10 win @ 9/1 (Corals)
Arkle: El Fabiolo @ 9/4 
and Turners: Mighty Potter @ 3/1 : £10 win double
Turners Nov Ch: MIGHTY POTTER - £10 win @ 7/2 (Paddy Power)
Cheltenham Gold Cup: PROTEKTORAT - £15 win @ 9/1 (paddy Power or Skybet)
Supreme Hurdle: Impaire Et Passe - £5 win @ 10/1 (Coral or Labrokes)
Ballymore Hurdle: Marine Nationale - £5 win @ 25/1 (Skybet or, Ladbrokes & Coral)
Broadway Chase: Thyme Hill - £5 win @ 8/1 (Bet365 or Skybet)
Broadway Chase: Thyme Hill - £5 win @ 7/1 (William Hill, NRNB)
Arkle: MIGHTY POTTER - £5 win @ 25/1 (Paddy Power)
Arkle: EL FABIOLO - £5 win @ 11/2 (Bet365)
Arkle: EL FABIOLO - £5 win @ 9/2 (William Hill, NRNB)

Total Staked to Date: £140

My proposed antepost portfolio is confirmed above, all these wagers have been written into the blog since 1st January. There's a couple that were speculative that are already losers: Mighty Potter in the Arkle (£5 @ 25/1), and probably Boothill also in the Arkle (£5 ew @ 40/1) but that stake is returned as it's NRNB.  I must admit that I'm feeling fairly confident about returning a profit from the antepost wagers.  I know it's exciting to place speculative doubles and trebles, but I've felt confident about the ability of Mighty Potter as a novice chaser since early December, and maybe if I'd lumped the lot on him at 7/2 for the "Turners" in early January that may have been the best policy.

The opening day continues with the Champion Hurdle over 2-miles & 87yds.
For the winner you cannot look anywhere else but Constitution Hill. He probably could have won this race last season as a novice hurdler (has any novice ever tried?), and he looks 10lb better than anything else in the race. There is no real point in considering stats for this race, as invariably the best horse wins the race: it is always a true test.
The Irish challenge is from State Man who won the County Hurdle last year looking every inch a potential Champion hurdle horse, but he just isn't in the same league as the fav. I'm surprised Vauban is entered as this 5yo is clearly behind his stablemate State Man, and I expect he is in the race for the experience. 
Nicky Henderson reckons the mare Epatante is better than ever, and if she is (she was 2nd in this race last year) then she should finish in front of Vauban. However, do not ignore I Like To Move It; he’s improved rapidly since going hurdling, just failing to win the Betfair H’cap off OR138, then winning the Greatwood H’cap off OR142 in November, and LTO smashing the Grade 2 “Kingwell” at Wincanton last month. He looks as good as State Man based on that performance LTO, and the only downside I can see is that he flopped in the County Hurdle (won by State Man) last year.  On form, the ”value” is trying to find the 3rd-placed horse on the day, and that looks between Epatante and I Like To Move It, and I prefer the latter given he’s a C&D winner and that he could be the 2nd best horse in the race and is currently available at 16/1 with Paddy Power & William Hill could be extremely good value in a race which could have only 6 or 7 starters.
Advice: I LIKE TO MOVE IT - £5 ew @ 16/1 (NRNB) with Paddy Power & William Hill

Mares’ hurdle 2m4f
Not my favourite race as the winner usually only needs to have a rating better than OR150. Fair enough to give mares’ a chance with a 7lb allowance against the geldings, but a mares' only race isn’t a championship race in my opinion.  Honeysuckle is due to take part, and I think she’s vulnerable. Her form this season has been decent for a mare but is definitely below “Honeysuckle” peak. If Marie’s Rock runs in this – and not the Stayers’ Hurdle over 3-mile – I believe she will take all the beating; she’s running around 155-158 which is about 5lb better than Honeysuckle. Brandy Love does not look good enough, and I feel Echoes In Rain is both not good enough and this isn’t her trip. More interesting is Love Envoi who was a Festival winner in 2022, and I think she has improved since – but although she’s not as good as Marie’s Rock she can give Honeysuckle a race. Queens Brook has potential to be placed, but that depends on which mares run in the race. 
My idea of the 1, 2, 3 is 1st Marie’s Rock, 2nd Love Envoi, 3rd Honeysuckle; but if Marie’s Rock goes for the Stayers’ Hurdle then Love Envoi at odds of 7/1 looks a value wager, but perhaps not the value of I Like To Move It in the Champion Hurdle.   

Juvenile Handicap Hurdle over 2-mile & 87yds
There is no way I'm going to spend time at this stage trying to find the winner of this race, as 6 of the last 10 winners have been sent off at odds of 25/1 or longer - Jeff Kidder won at 80/1 in 2021.

National Hunt Chase over 3m 6f
This can be one of the most informative races of the Festival having been won by Cause Of Causes, Minella Rocco, and Tiger Roll, and also  produced a couple of recent Gold Cup winner Native River (2nd in 2016). Of the last 16 winners, 14 had already won at 3-mile or further, and 10 of the last 13 winner had already run at Cheltenham. The top-3 on official ratings also have an excellent record in this race, and I have in the past just recommended having a wager on the horse with the highest official rating.  Not this year as, to be absolutely honest here: I can't see why Gaillard Du Mesnil is such a hot fav in this race. He will likely have the highest rating of OR155, but for me he lacks zip - just as Run Wild Fred rated OR156 did last year, and he ran 2nd  to Stattler rated OR153. Ramilies has not looked a convincing chaser, and he didn't look a convincing 3-miler hurdler either. Chemical Energy was the fav for this race until recently, but he ran a stinker on 29Jan and it's difficult to erase that run from the mind.  I have already advise antepost wagers on the pair Churchstonewarrior and Mahler Mission who fought out the finish of a 3-mile Grade 2 Chase on 12Feb, and that form looks rock solid, and this pair look to be still improving. I don't think City Chief (in the same ownership of Ramilies and Gaillard Du Mesnil) rated OR142 is good enough, and the same applies to his stable companion Mister Coffey rated OR145.  When you look at the entries, this race lacks depth which probably explains the betting. I would expect a fair amount of movement in the betting on the day, and while I expect Gaillard Du Mesnil to go off the fav, I don't expect him to win this race.

So then, just the one addition to the antepost portfolio: I LIKE TO MOVE IT in the Champion Hurdle.